Fake Fake

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On Fake Fake, Minneapolis natives STNNNG (once simply the Stunning) do something remarkably well that few bands around them are even attempting -- that is, make fractured, maniacal post-punk reminiscent of the 1980s heyday of bands like the Jesus Lizard and Big Black. STNNNG's complex web of abrasive noise rock gives the listener a substantial amount to listen to and comprehend, with the combination of cerebral lyrical nuggets, an extremely tight and ever-shifting rhythm section, and atonally searing guitar riffs adding up to a whirlwind of stimulation. Indeed, it takes several listens to even start becoming familiar with the music, which in many ways defies simple categorization. Lead vocalist Chris Besinger begins Fake Fake with the line "In a hundred, two hundred year's time, there'll be an ocean here, and a submarine will seem like a brilliant idea!" Throughout the album, this sort of off-the-cuff spirit reigns supreme, as Besinger spits out fascinating non-sequiturs which feel more like erroneous bits of poetic dialogue then cohesive song lyrics, especially when channeled through his half-spoken, half-shouted cadence. Frequently his delivery brings to mind the vocal panache of the Fall's Mark E. Smith. Little phrases (like "Row! Keep Rowing!") become casually repeated motifs, and elsewhere, tortured vocal cries mirror the shambolic instrumentation, like the half-a-minute of tortured bellowing which concludes "Dubbed Warehousing." One of the most striking elements of STNNNG's sound is Jesse Kwakenat's wily, gritty work on the bass, a consistently low rumble which complements and expands upon the churning drums to create an incredibly effective rhythm section. At about a minute in length, "Real Horror Show," which veers more towards hardcore punk, is perhaps the briefest, most concise encapsulation of STNNNG's instrumental chops, and it's over before you know it. In fact, after the six-minute expanse of the dazzling album opener "Grand Island, Neb.," everything else on Fake Fake almost feels like an afterthought, as if in answer to the precedent established by that defining statement. The briefer songs which follow bleed into each rather seamlessly, until finale "The Id Is a Dude" decisively wraps up this album of unbridled aggression and inventive song structure.

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