STNNNG simply has outdone itself with Veterans of Pleasure, its fifth full-length record, out tomorrow on vinyl and digital platforms via Modern Radio Records. The 11-song collection, the first from the veteran Minneapolis post-punk quintet since 2013’s Empire Inward, cuts and slashes at your ears with edgy pronouncements about sex, death and conspicuous consumption, and does it pretty goddamn depravedly well. This is angry, angular stuff, made all the better by Steve Albini, who returns for his second pass with the band as recording engineer, to make sure they sound well-oiled and pissed off. (Mission accomplished.) Vocalist Chris Besinger continues to lay his claim as king of the speak-sing delivery, spitting out words as if he was trying to shake snake venom from his throat, and the dual-attack guitars from Nathan Nelson and Adam Burt, which dart excitedly across the landscape, are particularly engaging, particularly inventive. All in all, here comes the pull quote: this is one of the band’s finest outings – and easily its best since 2006’s Fake Fake.
The band has you in its grips from the get-go. Album-opener “The Last Nostalgia,” released as a single/teaser for the record last month, chugs along with scraped guitar lines that sound like they’re being played backward, pounding drums, thudding bass, and Besinger, when he’s not dissecting time as a “multi-faceted prismatic event,” wailing “You’re back in time again!” It’s all gravy from there, with excellent outtakes like the bombastic “King Vulture Vista” (which wouldn’t be out of place on Dignified Sissy, the group’s more art-punkish debut), the bouncy “Marseille Spleen,” the anthemic “Sunbathing,” and “Soft Moon Warm Spider,” where Nelson and Burt give in to the urge to let their guitar pedals do the talking and a good chunk of the main verse sounds like a sweet, supersonic jetwave.
But listing four or five songs in an effort to summarize greatness is hardly giving the album its due, and the band sustains a kind of manic energy on songs like the explosive “Storming The Medical Frigate,” where Besinger just loses his shit. (It’s something to be heard, for sure.) But then, there’s the oddball drum-and-vocal exercise “Top Hat Man,” where Besinger regains said shit for, regretfully, what amounts to kind of a forgettable low point. (And, for the record, I like “Pasties and A G String.”) But the lulls don’t last more a minute or two. The band’s closes with a catchy surprise and a good bit of redemption: a vaguely melancholic “Miami,” where, again, Besinger’s highly conceptual lyricism about geographical culture captures your attention.
You could pretty much drop a needle anywhere on this thing and find a reason to listen to the whole thing. It’s good to have these guys back in the fold and back on the stereo.
“I was born hypnotized/became a veteran of pleasure,” Besinger roars on the title track. Indeed. Well, thank you for that, good sir. Now we are, too.