Back in 2013, Chicago-based post-punk act Disappears — founding member Brian Case (vocals, guitar) along with Noah Leger (drums), Jonathan van Herirk (guitar) and Damon Carruesco (bass) — released two related yet very different efforts that I love quite a bit –the atmospheric and tempestuous Kone EP and the tense, ranging Era. Era‘s material featured narrators, who rapidly vacillated between anxiousness, dangerously unhinged obsession, self-loathing, envy, unadulterated blind rage directed both at oneself and at the entire world. And much like the interior monologues of Underground Man in Notes from the Underground or of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, Era captures the dark and frightening recesses of a wounded psyche — and a furious roar into a cold and indifferent void.
In 2017, Carruesco left the band. The remaining members — Case, Lager and van Herrik — eventually decided to continue onward, but under a new name, and new sonic direction and songwriting approach as FACS. With 2018’s full-length debut, Negative Houses, the trio have quickly establish themselves as a heavy band, although they don’t necessarily feel like one: Case’s fluttering and wiry melodic guitar lines are paired with an insistent, rhythmic pulse.
Since Negative Houses, the Chicago-based outfit has released three more albums, including 2021’s Present Tense. Each of those albums have seen the members of FACS perfercting their unique brand of intense, catharsis-inducing art rock/post-punk, while pushing their sound and approach in new directions. The Chicago-based outfit’s fifth album, Still Life In Decay was recorded by Sanford Parker at Electrical Audio Recording and is slated for an April 7, 2023 release through Trouble In Mind Records. Bassist Alianna Kalaba, who took over for founding member Jonathan van Herik after the release of Negative Houses makes her amicable last stand with the group. Alongside Leger, the band’s rhythm section dance and twist around each other like double helix in which collectively they approach rhythm from outside the groove, rather than inside it, creating a lattice in which Case can weave his guitar lines in an around, like creeping vines.
Reportedly, Still Life in Decay is a decidedly focused effort that sees the band at their most solidified. The apocalyptic chaos of that defined their previous album is pushed away in favor of examination with a remarkable clarity — while being a sort of addendum to Present Tense.
“When You Say,” Still Life in Decay‘s uneasy first single is centered around the propulsive rhythmic lockstep between Leger and Kalaba that’s punctured with Case’s reverb-drenched and slashing bursts of guitar. Throughout, Case shouts repeated phrases with a desperate urgency, as though desperately trying to hold on to something — to anything, really — while the freeform lyrics touch on themes of resignation, cynicism, classism and a search for identity and meaning in a crumbling society. But at its core is a primal and forceful meditation on the exposed ugliness, inequities and divides within our “post pandemic” lives and world.
Directed by Joshua Ford, the accompanying video for “When You Say” performing the song in silhouette in a red-lit studio. Three cathode ray TVs of varying sizes are behind them, full of VHS-era fuzz and distortion — including close-up footage of the band’s members playing their instruments. The video captures the band at their tightest and most forceful.