Album Reviews

FACS: Still Life In Decay

The Chicago three-piece continue to revel in the mire of despair.

Over the past four years, post-punk monoliths, FACS (vocalist/guitarist Brian Case, bassist Alianna Kalaba, and drummer Noah Leger) have been one of the most crucial  voices across the new music landscape.

What makes FACS essential is their unbridled ability to uncloak the truth. Of course, their songs hold up in fascinating ways, too, however there’s a modesty to their straight talking. The kind of measured attitude that anyone with a shroud of common sense can related to.

While the cover of 2020’s Void Moments permeated an eerie prescience to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2021’s Present Tense mirrored the dusty, post-apocalyptic orange haze from a scene out of Blade Runner 2049, the artwork to Still Life In Decay evokes the memories of what lies beneath. Something one would find after being hurled into the abyss.

FACS have always been inspired by black pits, and Sill Life In Decay harnesses a new shade of gloom in what is the band’s darkest moment captured on tape yet.

High Tension: In Conversation with FACS’ Brian Case

Still Life In Decay unravels with themes that barely shift from the tone of its title. The hope we may have felt on the back of lockdown, swiftly evaporating in a world that is out of control with global power struggles sending shockwaves throughout the world as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen.

While Sleaford Mods have combed similar frontiers, instead of combating stark reality with humour, FACS dispense the kind of blistering noise and aural bending tonality that barely has you emerging from the debris. No one has captured these times like FACS, and on Still Life In Decay, so deep in the soil of fear and unease, you have to wonder where they will go to next. In fact, it’s quite alarming thinking about it, which is kind of the point.

FACS - Still Life In Decay

Purveyors of galactic dreadscapes and dubious of melody, the journey starts with Constellations. In what is her FACS swansong, Kalaba (since replaced by original bassist Jonathan Van Herrick) gives a stirring performance; her hooping bass lines remaining a vital cog in this machine. The droning blasts of Constellations are like a howl from the void. In this instance, FACS have your attention. “I woke up on / The wrong side of dawn” sings Case, fever leaking from his eyes as he fights against the tide of existential dread.

When You Say follows, and here FACS scramble the sequence of guitar-based music, taking to it with a glistening shard to the throat. Then there’s Slogan, which creeps up like a predator baring fangs and bad breath in pursuit of its quarry. “Empathy as a slogan / I had it in / The palm of my hand”). It’s saturated with a paranoia that FACS have always held and explored in equal measure, creating a tension that is at the band’s core.

Bondo: Print Selections

And that continues on Class Spectre. An icy-masked, black acid nightmare that reveals life’s harsh realities (“You can come back / But not the same“). Once again, Case parts with his messages in the kind of cold and concise ways that are unmatched. Still Life follows the same lineage (“The street names have changed/ And so has yours / The warp of everyday / Feels like somebody else’s memory”). Any other band, and you would consider it an out-of-body experience, but not FACS. Their dispatches, dead-eyed and brimming with the legitimacy we spend a lifetime avoiding.

Which is why New Flag is such a fitting end. “If there’s even a real world / Would you stay?“ questions Case. With nebulas rhythms to match the abstract, jarring themes, in all of its 10 minutes of glory, New Flag feels like the defining moment to the FACS story.

FACS’ greatest boon is their ability to excavate beyond the superficialities that dominate this world. It’s also why they are among the most vital voices out there. Neither preachy nor polemic, Case never talks down to his audience like so many others in this space. He simply places the world’s ills at our feet and, ultimately, it’s for us to decide. On Still Life In Decay, the message hasn’t been clearer.

Still Life In Decay is out via Trouble In Mind Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

3 replies on “FACS: Still Life In Decay”

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