Cooler By The Lake Turquoise
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‘Crushed in the palm of the invisible hand, The cursor dictates, its part of the plan, Sisyphean circle, an endless race, Tethered and bound, you’re tied in place’ (Harsh Reality)
Chicago’s Stress Positions boast three former members of C.H.E.W. plus a new vocalist, Stephanie Brooks, with former vocalist Doris Carroll contributing the lyrics to two tracks, Flaming Sword and How To Get Ahead. The base formula of politically charged, rampaging fast hardcore remains firmly in place. Intriguingly, however, while on one hand delivering an even more visceral onslaught, the band have also succeeded in adding a more experimental edge to their blistering barrage, with moments of almost jazz-infused, psychedelic invention. And these subtle flourishes only amplify the intensity, which reaches a truly crushing, slow burn Rollins Band-style finale with Ode To Aphrodite. Brooks’ vocal delivery is rabid throughout as the band dismantle the governing consensus that manifests itself in devestating socio-economic inequality (Harsh Reality, Hand To Mouth), entrenched privilege (White Leech), and police brutality (No Sympathy).
Harsh Reality, as the name might suggest, is an unrelenting, thought-provoking, intense album from start to finish. Most of the songs were either finished or conceived of early in the pandemic: a time when everything was amplified, a constant reminder that ‘this is how things are’. Subject matter varies from poverty and the firm grip capitalism has on our lives, to personal conflicts and police brutality, particularly in the band’s home city of Chicago. Stress Positions intelligently uses the trappings of hardcore punk to address sexuality, finding freedom from religious oppression, guilt, and shame, and the resulting auditory assault is an apt reflection of the world around us. It feels as if you never get a chance to breathe, and when you do, it’s a brief, desperate gasp. Enjoy it while you can- it won’t last long.
—Three One G