Strange Faces

Do you ever just sit there and think, “Meh. I guess this is what I’ve got.”? And sometimes you just feel resigned to the fate of it all? Where such a completely normal feeling of being stuck in a mundane state starts, Stonerism is there to pick up the slack. Dealing with this and a wide array of related issues, Chicago act Strange Faces debut album from Autumn Tone Records understands all of this, maybe better than most people.

When “I Saw Your Face” starts things off, all you can do is stand there and take in the tidal wave that is bearing down on you. You might think Strange Faces are the dream child of a Wavves/Ty Segall collaboration, but don’t get ahead of yourself just because they wake the dead with their blistering guitars or the rhythmic battle between excess that closes the track out. The lo-fi credentials they have are certifiably theirs. Looking at “Been Waitin’,” you get a stack of six-strings that are hurtling headfirst into an immense wall of bass.

And tracks like “Still Lit” make you wonder if Times New Viking would have pulled off something similar if they used a bit more fidelity. It’s also the track that strongly typifies the central themes of Stonerism – going on a bender, facing paranoia, being pushed to the brink of inert frustration – all wrapped up in an homage to the best the 60s had to offer.

Even a track like “Serenade” that starts off a bit toned down can’t help but finds its way into a late 60s flashback. This is the type of track that would have been playing in the beaded curtain living room of anyone who was with it in the 60s, especially given the spacey ending. It’s a celestial sound that rears its head again on “Why?” Although it’s the shortest track on the album, it’s one of the strongest as well. It’s like a rocket fading into the sky as it sails towards the nether realms of an outer abyss. But album standout “Nothin’ to Prove” may encapsulate everything the best. It has a general shoulder shrug attitude about it. There’s a little bit of 60s mysticism, and at times you can picture it playing during a dance scene of an avant garde/psych surf film from that era.

But make no doubt about it that accepting one’s lot in life may be what it’s all about. The second track, “Don’t Feel Bad” (my personal favorite) is lo-fi vocals swamped by a snappy rhythm in front of a background of murder and running away from your crime. “They’re coming to get me” fits into the lyrical narrative, but it also seems to be an overarching anthem – something terrible happened, so you might as well enjoy things before it all closes in. Even “Such a Drag,” with its minimal vocals and proud display of the music, feels like a wide-eyed stare into distance boredom with everything.

The fast past-paced culture on “Skippin’ Town” is ready to call it a day. There’s an “over it” attitude that we can all relate to, especially when it feels like there’s a decision to rage or sulk looming ahead of us. And by the time album closer “Long Time” rolls in, liquid is sloshing around the glass at the end of the night. You don’t feel defeated though; you just feel like maybe it’s time for a little break. Joey Smith