Modern Radio Records
Do you remember back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when so much of the good college rock was antisocial shouty guys screaming stream of consciousness awkwardness over granite-slab, grinding riffs and low end distorted bass, evil with octopus-armed drum groove? Patron saints were the Fall and their apostles included luminaries like Scratch Acid (and the succeeding Jesus Lizard), Big Black, and Killdozer. And maybe the entire Touch and Go roster? Friend, happy fucking times are here again! There is no other band doing what STNNNG is doing, as well as they’re doing it, that I can think of recently except for maybe McClusky and Sluts of Trust. Fake Fake is the goodness, with a hearty dose of Zappa-esque bratty art pranks. Dig?
Opener “Grand Island, Neb.” sets an impossibly twisted standard for the rest of the album. Over a distorted bass crawl, plodding drums, and wiry guitar harmonics, the vocalist, almost more of a method actor, plays the part of both the captain and luckless crew of a boat in the midst of some absurdist Moby Dick style quest – screeching alternately, “My lips are caked and bloody,” or bellowing, “Row, keep rowing!” I love how the vocals go from mannered, talk-singing to scabby screams and howls. I played it to a pal of mine who traveled a long way to see Scratch Acid reform in Chicago and his eyes lit up appropriately. “Dub Warehousing” is more Jesus-Lizard-esque fuzzed drunken noir lurching, with a great gang-sung chorus. I love when the vocalist starts having a breakdown off-mic. The speedier ur-punk of “Real Horror Show” conjures up bits of scary long-haired Black Flag – always a good thing. “Dead Sex” is totally preening and strutting – their riffs are simplistic perfection, T-Rex style, without sounding like T-Rex, ya dig? That well-constructed. And the guitar-bass-drums are in fearsome sync, with vocals in the dark, cruel vein of Mark E. Smith or the mighty Prolapse, and then doing that thing that only two vocalists maybe can pull off, where he breaks down into gibberish before instantly regaining his composure with a sneer, “I’ve learned a few things about repetition and how to avoid it.” More! The Id Is A Dude” keeps looping as high-strung tense dynamics build, until you can’t even take a breath in this wiretrap. No escape. No release. Until a final, all-too brief explosion of distortion and screams. That’s all you get.
Oh and the packaging gave me a jolt as well, dad! Like 3-D glasses! Well, almost! The ruby red CD casing is perfect for coaxing out the secrets hidden in the liner notes – spiders, bird attacks, magicians, and skulls! These dudes are working on a Half-Japanese level of sublime thematic awesomeness.