Fake Fake (Modern Radio)
Reviewed by Sherman Wick
Second records are frequently artistic let downs from promising first
releases. Bands often commence their musical output with tremendous
creative vision and only minimal musical chops, but as their talents
develop they become overly derivative, conventional and boring. That's not
the case here.
STNNNG forgoes the sophomore slump with their latest
scintillating album, Fake Fake. The band expands its sonic palette
literally from the bottom up, thanks to the addition of bassist Jesse
Kwakenat. During the early days of "The Stunning" they lacked a bassist.
This was before another claim on their moniker resulted in their eccentric
yet distinctive new nomenclature; The addition has resulted in a heavier
bottom with denser and layered development of instrumental interplay from
the Twin Cities five-piece.
Dignified Sissy, their debut, was a record
loaded with concise dynamic music paired with verbose and hilarious lyrics
about quotidian idiocy. The band's sound has been compared to numerous
seminal punk, post-punk and indie groups from the Minutemen to the Fall -- I
think indolently and erroneously -- by the Twin Cities media; despite the
fact that their music nearly emulates Scratch Acid and the Jesus Lizard.
Both groups share a common yen for providing great shows for their
audiences and aesthetic sensibilities that include inventive and dissonant
chords and over-the-top, wacko vocal style and lyrical content; albeit,
singer Chris Besinger enunciates far clearer than the legendary defunct
band's vocalist and concert jester, David Yow.
The first track sets the vocal tone of the record: manic singing from the point of view of an
overzealous, failed quasi-genius or office/service industry
pseudo-authority figure...or, perhaps, millennialist cult leader? One thing
is for certain, the character is well-drawn and deeply delusional as he
screams in a manic voice the refrain of "Row / Keep rowing," ad infinitum.
There are countless additional thoroughly detailed mental pictures of
dysfunction and dystopia painted by Besinger's lyrics on this record.
STNNNG continues to present their albums in an oddly askew and alluring
manner. The jewel case for the CD is tinted in bright red with the
band's name and the title of the record written obliquely on the cover:
an odd iconic combination of skull and crossbones, a little girl's head
and apparently an ice cream cone. The song titles are scattered
throughout the fold-out for the record. Unfortunately, the song titles
are not numbered, so in many cases listeners are not sure of the titles
of individual songs unless they invest hours of time deciphering the
lyrics and linking them to their titles. But the lyrics are easy to
understand and follow on every song. And this work is not a novel, it's a
record, and even if it takes a significant effort to match the titles with
the tracks, the music and the words are seedily insightful. So unless
the listener requires a conventional record layout, just sit back and
enjoy the tunes.
Overall, the ten tracks are consistently as good as
their excellent debut, and are unusually named: "Buzzing Out From Between
Their Legs," and "Wolves Are Nothing, They're Just Wild Dogs." For the new
record, the guitar lines are wackier and more inventive, while Besinger's
added shouting, crying, mumbling and other aberrant tricks to his
vocal delivery. He has also written more concise and piquant madman
lyrics, several of which rival seminal '80s pigfuck bands Killdozer, Big
Black and Scratch Acid. The recording presents the band at its best:
live. If you're a fan of obnoxious guitars and vocals check out this
© 2007 - Sherman Wick