Harsh Reality

Three One G
rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. Harsh Reality
02. Hand to Mouth
03. How to Get Ahead
04. White Leech
05. No Sympathy (For the Police)
06. Flaming Sword
07. Performative Justice
08. Sunken Place
09. Ode to Aphrodite

Everyone should remember the first time that music made them want to smash their own bedroom up. If heavy, angry, ugly music has any purpose whatsoever, it is to get the blood pumping and the spirit soaring, even if the means of achieving that singular rush is to fully embrace the dark and horrible aspects of humanity. Put more simply, bands like STRESS POSITIONS are few and far between, but when they appear, usually from nowhere, their potential impact is vast. "Harsh Reality" is the kind of white-knuckle, ultra-livid hardcore punk skull-kicking that comes along once in a glue moon, dishes out a beating of Biblical proportions and then departs, leaving listeners brutalized but glowing with satisfaction. Palpably left-field and averse to cliché, this Chicagoan crew also display a sly, artful edge, albeit right at the end of this frustratingly brief explosion of brittle brilliance. "Ode to Aphrodite" is a slow, menacing finale, with shades of SONIC YOUTH's outer limits cacophony and walls of howling feedback that lead to a chaotic, deranged denouement.

Prior to all of that adventurousness and left-field noise, "Harsh Reality" is an unrelenting tornado of psycho-speed punk brutality. The title track begins with a swing, before ripping away at an absurd pace, with vocalist Stephanie Brooks scraping paint from the walls while somehow managing to retain her eyeballs. It barely last 130 seconds, and it is as viscerally thrilling as anything else released this year.

STRESS POSITIONS understand the value of a remorseless savaging. "Hand to Mouth" is berserk, wonky hardcore with mischievous tendencies; "How to Get Ahead" is mad, flailing D-beat crustiness with no brakes; "White Leech" is the fastest, nastiest rock 'n' roll shit-fight since the early days of ZEKE, but with the intrinsic madness of MELT BANANA thrown in for extra crazy points; "No Sympathy (For the Police)" is a punishing, mid-tempo hardcore stomp with East Bay Ray trimmings; "Flaming Sword" is just fucking nuts, like snorting coke on a rollercoaster. After the micro-assault of "Performative Justice", "Sunken Place" reaffirms this band's mesmerizing ferocity, as the most absurdly vicious punk uproar collides with lurching, angular riffs that sound like a post-head-trauma FUGAZI. The comparative restraint of "Ode to Aphrodite" almost comes as a relief. Above all, STRESS POSITIONS are magnificently intense.

It bears repeating: this is a ridiculously exciting record. It barely lasts 18 minutes, but every one of them is an electrifying incitement to smash everything and screw the consequences. STRESS POSITIONS fucking rule. The end.

Author: Dom Lawson
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