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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Stnnng & Sicbay
Dignified Sissy / Suspicious Icons
Modern Radio / 54' 40 or Fight!

Rating: 0/10 ?

November 2, 2005
Rating: Stnnng - 7.5 / Sicbay - 6

The Twin Cities area has become a capitalist Mecca/nightmare. As if the Mall of America wasn't providing people calling themselves "shopoholics" enough crap to waste their money on, Swedish giants Ikea and H&M have moved in to create a Eurotrash merchandise monster. On any given weekend, droves of Minnesotans can be found digging through piles of cheap sweaters and choosing between the chair named "poang" and the one named "fut."

On the bright side, this consumer wasteland has impacted the local music scene, which is increasingly anti-everything. Over the years, the Minneapolis scene has been home to Hüsker Dü, Dillinger Four and the communist-flavored Soviettes. Stnnng and Sicbay fit perfectly into this angsty family with their respective releases, Dignified Sissy and Suspicious Icons.

Stnnng is the younger (and younger-sounding) of the two bands. Their debut, Dignified Sissy, is a chaotic, bratty and immature noise-rock record with song topics ranging from cameltoe to "People And Their Cell Phones": "This neighborhood has a topography of boils/a crust of spitting morons/a landscape of plastic stupidity" squeals Chris Besinger on the opening track, sharing some of the tamest lyrics on the album. Dignified Sissy is full of death, sex and mutilation, each accompanied by thundering drums and impossibly catchy three-note guitar riffs.

At times, Besinger gets downright obvious with his politics: "C'mon, whose up for some serious nihilism?!/This plane is crashing let's just drive it into the ground," he declares on "New National Anthem," the album's Francis Scott Key-bashing centerpiece. "We sing for pill poppers, insurance salesman/We sing for panty sniffers and the grossly overweight/Aren't you glad to be in America?" - it makes "American Idiot" sound like a wimpy Garrison Keillor joke. Stnnng set out to freak out, and Dignified Sissy freaks out indeed.

Sicbay is gentler than their vowel-shunning counterparts, and Suspicious Icons is markedly more docile than Dignified Sissy. Like Besinger, Sicbay's Nick Sakes prefers to shout his lyrics about false idols and radio waves: "Unleash the eye on suspicious idols!" is his overarching statement on the title track.

Unlike Stnnng, however, Sicbay include flashes of melody in the majority of their songs; the mix of anarchy and control comes off sounding a bit too much like Zen Arcade played at a slightly slower tempo. Songs like "The Paper Blanket" and "Roiling The Panacea" have Hüsker Dü written all over them, to the point of Sakes' aping Bob Mould's vocals before he went all wussy for his solo career.

Despite the punk posturing, "The Rise Of Phantom White" sticks out like a sore thumb on Suspicious Icons because of it's poppy structure. The guitars are still distorted and the drums are still loud, but the song as a whole is washed out and drab. If this is what Sicbay sound like when they aren't pretending to be Hüsker Dü, they should just stick with the umlauts.

Placed side by side, it's clear that Dignified Sissy is the superior album. Stnnng are crazier, fresher and more obnoxious - which is exactly what you want from an anti-establishment band. They know what they play best and do so. In the world of Minneapolis-based anti-consumer rock albums, Suspicious Icons doesn't take enough risks to hold its own against Dignified Sissy. It seems Sicbay is trying to appeal to a wider audience, which only weakens their potentially ferocious sound.

Reviewed by Andy Brown
A regular contributor to LAS, Andy Brown lives in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, but doesn\'t think he has an accent.

See other reviews by Andy Brown



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