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.
released November 18, 2006
Chris Besinger: Vocal
Adam Burt: Guitar
Jesse Kwakenat: Bass
Nathan Nelson: Guitar
Jeremy Ward: Drums
Recorded at Lust Manor, Chicago, IL
Recorded by Mike Lust
Mastered at Magneto Mastering, Minneapolis, MN
Mastered by Dave Gardner
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