When Weakened Friends rolled through town almost exactly a year ago, they were riding high on the attention and acclaim being lavished on “Hate Mail,” the Portland, Maine trio’s late 2017 single release that featured a potent guitar cameo from J. Mascis, iconic frontperson for Dinosaur Jr. Mascis was a fabulous guest for the fledgling band that began almost four years ago. But, as their gigs and radio show appearances conclusively proved, Weakened Friends didn’t suffer in his absence. Guitarist/vocalist Sonia Sturino is Mascis’ six-string doppelganger, shredding with equal abandon and aplomb, while her warbling/screamed vocals examine the passionate extremes of Björk and Kate Bush, if they’d been born late enough to be influenced by Emo and Pop/Punk.
Since their last Cincinnati appearance, Weakened Friends toured relentlessly and returned to the studio to create their debut full-length album, Common Blah, a blazing extension of their first two EPs and reinforcing evidence of every good thing that’s been written about them over the past three years. Once again, Sturino’s manic vocals and tightly unhinged guitar ministrations are anchored by the superhuman rhythm section of bassist Annie Hoffman and drummer Cam Jones, who provide the perfect sturdy-yet-fluid foundation for Sturino’s cyclonic presence.
“Hate Mail” shows up in the set list for Common Blah, but it’s merely one jewel among many: the fuzzed-out swagger of “Peel”; the Veruca assault of “Blue Again”; the hyper-caffeinated intensity of “Younger.” As with much of Weakened Friends’ material to date, the songs on Common Blah are Sturino’s ruminations about toxic relationships — the reasons people seek them, stay in them and allow themselves to be ruled by them, and the fortitude necessary to break the chains. There is both pain and liberating ecstasy in Sturino’s voice when she declares in the chorus of “Hate Mail,” “I hate everything you’re saying, get away from me/I hate everything we’re doing, it’s a waste for me.”
Since Weakened Friends’ revelatory SXSW appearance in 2017, things have steamrolled along appropriately, from the acclaim for “Hate Mail” to a well-deserved Boston Music Award. The release of Common Blah this past October accentuated the band’s small but brilliant catalog and raised the bar for an already anticipated sophomore release.