Fear is a primal emotion; it surrounds, manipulates, suffocates, and ultimately destroys. We live in a time of great fear: fear of our leaders, fear of each other, fear of ourselves; and it is this fear that has become the overarching catalyst for modern living.
Falling Stacks, the Bristol three-piece, who’ve been favourably compared to the likes of Shellac, Sonic Youth, and Fugazi, embrace these fears with all the enthusiasm of a rabid dog hounding its own tail. Their latest release No Wives is a taut, sweaty beast dripping with claustrophobic dread, urgent bass, and jittery guitar that burst into unexpected blizzards of noise producing an unnerving swirl of off kilter sound.
Punctuated by tape loader squeals, dog impressions, and vocalist GR’s manic, desperate yelps No Wives is an album that demands your attention. From the agitated drums on opener “Pool Party”, through the lurching doom of “Los Ticos” and onto the, frankly pretty bonkers, “New Dog”, Falling Stacks make good on the promise of their early eps to create a 10 track mini-masterpiece of vitriolic frustration.
Albini-esque will forever be their calling card and their curse, but it’s hard to discuss Falling Stacks without mentioning the maverick genius behind more cool records than your big brother’s dusty vinyl collection. No Wives no doubt takes its cues from the Albini oeuvre but to label Falling Stacks mere plagiarist disciples is to do them a disservice. Structurally and thematically we’re led down much weirder avenues; where bass creeps menacingly yet seductively towards its prey (“Los Ticos”), ever increasing garment sizes are discussed with all the trepidation of a society bloated to capacity (“Sections & Subsections”) and grunge is no longer a dirty word (“Dust Motes”).
No Wives is a magnificent achievement, a record steeped in a rich history of alternative discordance that never once feels stale or overly familiar. Every twist and turn, every shift between quiet and loud and every crazed one liner “there’s a fox in the road looking at you, you’re staring at her” is delivered with all the surprise and vigor of a band unrestrained by the need to “fit in”. For a band so indebted to the notions of fear in the tone of their music, it’s quite remarkable just how bloody fearless Falling Stacks is in creating it.