From the sweaty basements of Chicago’s D.I.Y music scene emerges Stay Miserable, the debut LP of Chicago’s raucous rock trio Trash Fiasco.
Unapologetically campy and at times deranged, Stay Miserable is a home-brewed concoction of punk, American hardcore, and garage rock influences. The LP, though rough around the edges, forgoes sheen for chilling lyrics, unconventional song structures, and sheer ampage. It’s a 25-minute journey through the catacombs of rock music, and Trash Fiasco surfaces maybe not unscathed, but decidedly eccentric.
At their best, Trash Fiasco sounds like a mob of Neanderthals pillaging a music store, having never seen an instrument but making loud sounds nonetheless. Such is the sonic anarchy that opens “Little Red Rover.”
Other moments are intentional, like how the band oscillates between frenzied and measured tempos on “Little Red Rover” and “Plenty of Time,” as if to differentiate themselves from pioneering punk groups that adhered to 140 bpm-tempos.
The highlight of the LP is frontman Frank Bruno’s elastic vocals, which span Nick Cave-level growling to wailing that invokes a coked-up Axl Rose to a vibrato that sounds like a tropical bird call.
He traverses his entire vocal spectrum on “Stay,” which portrays a love-crazed individual holding his partner captive. “I hope you choose to stay / ‘Cause you’re staying anyway,” Bruno rumbles over a doo-wop riff that, in contrast to the track’s lyrics, seems like a delirious attempt to feign cheeriness.
U.K. punk’s political influence is evident on tracks like “RFKJR,” which opens with audio of Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 speech following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The late senator adjures listeners to avoid rioting, to which Trash Fiasco responds with lawless guitar riffs and a seething chorus: “Sworn in / Blown out / We won’t survive / Fucking tear me apart.”
There’s Clash-esque ennui on “21st Misery” as well, though sonically, it sounds like Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys joined Black Flag and took a time machine forward to bemoan 2021.
A touch of bemoaning is warranted, given the state of the world. And punk, in all of its nihilism and blind rage, is as good a vehicle as any to critique the dumpster fire year we’ve had. Trash Fiasco does this not by asserting any particular agenda, but by chewing up all of 2021’s bullshit, digesting it with punk rock sensibilities, and spitting an album driven by chaos and agony.
It’s not what you’d turn on to set the mood, but if you enjoy blitzing your ears with unruly rock music, Stay Miserable will fit the bill.
Featured image: Trash Fiasco by Courtney Laine
Kira Leadholm is the co-editor-in-chief of Redacted Magazine. Kira recently returned from a year living in Kazakhstan where she reported on the climate crisis, LGBT+ rights, labor issues and the arts. Currently, she studies social justice and investigative reporting at Medill School of Journalism, and she holds a B.A. from the University of Chicago.