Change is Bad is the first album of Chicago based post-punk band Stuck. Despite this being their first offering as a newly formed group, they’ve managed to create a unique and sophisticated vision. The visceral instruments and the artistic use of atonality is linked tightly with sincere lyricism. The vocals take up a lot of the spotlight here and definitely carries the whole character of the album, it ranges from short scornful stabs to full-on primal howls that reach into your psyche. Each track is rife with anguish, existential dread and raw energy that is presented to us in a harsh yet cathartic way.
“Ceiling” starts as a call to action, with guitar riffs that interweave in polyrhythm. The harmonies are claustrophobic, and the bass line suggests something lurking in the background. “Invisible Wall” is a standout track that starts with jittery starts and stops that turns into a disorienting swirl of noise. It evokes a feeling that you’re being trapped and the walls are constantly shifting, like being stuck in M.C. Escher’s Relativity. There’s a riff that’s eerily similar to The Twilight Zone theme which adds another layer to its creepiness.
“Bug Song” makes me excited, because I can finally use the word Kafkaesque. Indeed this song goes through a metamorphosis of its own, starting out as a subdued droning of melancholic guitars, it slowly intensifies into a cacophony of roars and moans. The lyrics fall into a pit of self-loathing, comparing himself to different insects as he muses about feelings of inadequacy and laziness. “I wanna be everything that I hate”, he declares in anguish.
Foreboding dissonance is the theme of “Plank II”, with vocals that seem to be taken straight out of a public demonstration. There’s no megaphone needed here as the heaviest line in the album “We’re living in a death cult” reverberates loud and clear in our daily lives.
“Anniversary” is the most personal track and also the longest at 4 minutes. It’s given the most emotional depth, and parts of the vocals are finally sung. There’s an intertwining of dissonant guitar riffs that induces a vertigo effect. Nostalgia and regret bleed through the lung-busting outro, implying a trauma that’s being re-lived over and over.
The closing track “Bells” starts with a hopeful line : “Like a potted plant too big for its home / I’ll take what I’m given”, signaling a hopeful for the better. The track is full of conviction, spoken by someone with a chip on their shoulder, who’s up against the odds. “I can’t see the future / We’ll know how it ends.”
Change is Bad is something you shouldn’t miss. It should be prescribed to listeners who need a dose of therapeutic anger, just make sure you’re on solid ground or you might get rocked off by the sheer amount of dissonance.
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