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The Funs - Alienated Music Album Reviews

On their first release for the D.C. punk band Priests’ label, the duo finally let a little light into their rough-and-tumble rock songs, celebrating in spite of hardships.

If you’ve ever seen the Funs perform, you may have noticed the duct tape. Jessee Rose Crane and Philip Jerome Lesicko, who constantly swap instruments between songs, brandish guitars and drums that look as if they will fall apart during the next tune. But they are the perfect tools for the Funs’ sort of rough-edged indie rock—janky, excessively noisy songs that rattle around like loose, rusty parts. The Funs don’t waste time replacing a slightly busted microphone; they slap on adhesive and keep going, an approach that stems from the way they handle life, too. The Funs chose their name, after all, as an optimistic gesture amid the hard times of their early years, including the untimely death of Crane’s brother. They’ve turned an abandoned funeral home outside St. Louis into a recording studio. Still, their sound—grungy, tarry, tough—has rarely conveyed such optimism.

Alienated, their first release for Priests’ Sister Polygon imprint, finally allows unquestionable rays of sunlight into their songs, hints of the hope for which they’ve long waited. But it begins with a disclaimer on “Enemy,” where Crane aims desperate shrieks inward. “I am my enemy,” she howls, delivering a warning against getting too comfortable when things look up. “Don’t tell me that there’s nothing left/I guess at least there’s still my breath,” she continues. After this sobering first step, Alienated turns the corner, pivoting to the cool-headed “Moderate Overkill” and the anti-romantic pop of “Forget Me Not.” During “Into the Mirror,” Lesicko’s voice is clear and content—a big deal, aptly underlined by big-hearted bashing.

As singers and instrumentalists, Lesicko and Crane haven’t advanced much on a technical level despite a steady stream of releases during the last decade. But that’s kind of the point—to move swiftly, honestly, and imperfectly through the challenges of the world, all the time. Lesicko’s drum fills in the chorus of “Forget Me Not,” for instance, never get off the ground, like a flapping bird that hovers just a few inches above the earth. But he plays with fire, matched by a passionate three-note guitar solo from Crane. It’s the color and tone that matter, not the technique.

For “Power,” the album’s 10-minute finale, the Funs uncharacteristically tackle a grand, conceptual design. It’s like a mumbled, guitar-narrated spin on The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come for Free closer, “Empty Cans”—two versions of the same song, coming to a full stop and starting over, but with a critical perspective shift. The first half thrashes and fumes until it dies, while the second frames the same chords in softer light, like a sunset panorama. Lesicko achieves flight this time with a high-tremolo solo that ushers the album toward its gentle fade. It’s a notably vivid exit for a band that’s so often captured the opposite mood, a rare moment of unadulterated joy worthwhile of a lifelong search.

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