Those Darlins sharpen their chops without losing their scrappy style on their latest 

On the Loose

On the Loose

From the first few seconds of "Screws Get Loose," the title track from Those Darlins' new full-length, it's clear this is not the same band that gave us 2009's rollicking, punk-country Those Darlins: A rubbery mess of warped guitar notes bends around a driving xylophone, and as the song shifts into the verse, the sound is akin to a parallel-universe '60s girl-group (albeit with snarlier vocals) playing full-on guitar-driven pop. But it's around the time Jessi Darlin gets to the chorus — "Can't blame me for what I choose / Whoa-oh, screws get loose" — delivered in her signature adenoidal drawl, that we realize this is the same band we've known all along. They've just gotten better.

Put another way: While the acoustic instrumental twang of old favorites like "Wild One" has been replaced by surfy riffs and the occasional psychedelic reverb-soaked drone, these Tennesseans are still country enough to down whiskey all night, come home drunk and devour an entire leftover chicken at 3 a.m. — "Fatty Needs a Fix" is a hilarious companion piece, of sorts, to Those Darlins' "The Whole Damn Thing" — and their relentless touring has only made them more assured in their writing and playing.

There's a nice continuity to Screws, too, to go with the variety of songwriting styles. On one end of the spectrum lie bratty rants like the infectious Jessi-penned "Be Your Bro," and its punky lament that will ring true for annoyed tomboys the world over: "I just wanna run and play in the dirt with you / You just wanna stick it in." On the other end there are the slower, more reflective, wistful tunes like the Kelley-penned "Boy" (a riposte, of sorts, to Ricky Nelson's "Travelin' Man"). In between — from Linwood's slouchy "Let U Down" to Nikki's delightfully psychosomatic "Hives" — Those Darlins sound like a band, and a hell of a good one at that.

Rating: 4/5



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