By Nathan Pavolko
Regardless of their name, The Funs are not a party band. Much to my surprise, they are a loud cry of honesty with each note played with the ferocity of a wild animal, cornered, fighting for its life. Created in 2009 from a patch of desperation and self destruction, The Funs are the embodiment of hope. By relentlessly wading through the sweaty crowds of warehouses, basements, and bars, their dreams came true. Manic Static released their self-titled debut LP in 2013 on cassette and vinyl. And in the fall of 2014 the band was able to open for The Breeders on a west coast tour. In the wake of their dream, Jessee Rose Crane and Philip Jerome Lesicko decided to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Retreating to the corn fields of small-town Illinois, in an old funeral home, the duo honed their craft. Through their seclusion, the band now brings us their second LP, My Survival.
Stripped down to the essentials of guitar and drums, The Funs have nothing to hide. The band bravely pushes the boundaries of minimalistic songwriting, allowing them full control over their wild tempo shifts and displaced pop structure, often times throughout the record switching instruments further adding to the dynamic of each song. The Funs may not have new and bizarre textures and tones to their instruments like many other bands today; instead it’s their darkness and carefully placed structure that truly caught my eye. Adopting a punk attitude from all-ages shows when they were kids, this band is not afraid to show you how they feel.
Kicking the album off is their single “Cross Kisser”. Lesicko’s hollowing vocals rise up through a herky jerky guitar riff that is coated in a thick layer of fuzz. The drums are slightly metallic and sharp-sounding as if it was recorded in a tin can. Don’t get me wrong, I mean this in the best possible way. It really fits their style to the letter. The Funs have an emptiness I really like, not only musically but emotionally as well. The amount of intentional space they leave in their songs creates an overwhelming tension, which is especially true in their track “Don’t Let Go”. Crane stretches her reverb-soaked voice to a paper-thin high, as she pleas a certain someone or something to stay.
The Funs are a band that has a versatile sound, ranging from the delicate “Swear and Sweat” to the crushing blow of “Europa”. You can easily rock, cry, move and mope to them. It’s hard to pin point what you would classify their music as, since they have a tiredness about them, like they’ve been carrying a heavy weight on their shoulders for far too long. In the song “It’s Strange”, Lesicko’s voice lazily follows the slap back of a bright guitar, progressively getting louder, adding fuzz to the guitar and Lesicko yelling with a frustration. Yet through all this thick depressive darkness, there is a light and a strange sense of hope, as if the band is guiding you out.
My Survival shines on an internal battle that some of us may struggle with. The hard hitting song “Not Of You Of Me” voices this frustration in a blunt honesty. In an oddly calm tone, Crane sings out “I really wanna have control // Not of you of me // People keep saying // Take it easy, you’re too sensitive // And I’ll keep saying // It’s the only way that I can live”. This song is an anthem of sorts to rally people who are not vocal about their struggle, whatever it may be.
The latter half of the album shows a more gentle side of The Funs. With their attempt at a power pop ballad “Glow Sunset Glow”, the song lightly blows through the breeze of a clean guitar and Crane’s wonderful Kim Gordon style crooning. Many of my favorite tracks are during the B-side. They keep just the right amount of chaos and fuzz in the mix, bringing the minor details of the instrumentation and vocals to life. In the title track “My Survival” the guitar work creates such a beautiful soundscape, switching back and forth from a sharp clean guitar to a sludgy low-end fuzz. I also enjoyed the haywire guitar of “Blood Bleeding Silver” reminiscent of an early Sonic Youth album.
My Survival is a bold venture into the deep dark corners of thought and emotion, carefully crafted with a commiseration and passion that seems to be all too often overlooked. The loud and sensitive duo have clearly found their sound, now I can’t wait for them to explore it. If you’re stuck in a rut, feeling gloomy and down, then pick this album up. The Funs will be right by your alley.