Steeled nerves and empty bowels are recommended when attending a Fake Limbs show, where confrontational frontman Stephen Sowley can easily scare the shit out of the unwitting. In-your-face aggression is the Chicago foursome’s stock in trade, and that’s never more evident than when the imposing singer—a black ski mask pulled over his head—charges into the crowd and obliterates that comfy boundary between the audience and performer known as “personal space.”
Uncomfortable as it may sound, it’s all spectacle. Sowley’s over-the-top ferocity and warpath vocals are really a sly wink at masculine bluster, which the band does its best to mock on Man Feelings, its debut for local label BLVD Records. The LP is a case study in how to make relatively tame subject matter sound menacing as Sowley rages about the indecency of Internet trolls, frat guy machismo and workplace gripes, all without sounding whiny.
The influence of the Jesus Lizard looms large over Fake Limbs, and Sowley’s unhinged yelps and deep-seated David Yow–isms often seem like outright tribute, but the foursome owes nearly as much to tongue-in-cheek pummelers like Rye Coalition. Guitarist Bryan Gleason breaks glammy, blues-rock riffs into angular shards, while bassist Mat Biscan and drummer Nick Smalkowski, the former rhythm section for Builder/Destroyer, heave back and forth between lumbering ’70s hard-rock grooves and jagged noise-punk. It’s mostly, if not all, bravado, but in that sense the band is simply carrying the pigfuck tradition forward.
Kim Bellware, Timeout Chicago
Fake Limbs are on the make. The brutish rock quartet, which features former Builder/Destroyer rhythm section Mat Biscan and Nick Smalkowski, drops its debut, Man Feelings, on May 8 via BLVD. Fake Limbs recorded and mixed the album in two days at Electrical Audio, and according to front man and infamous Danny’s doorkeep Stephen Sowley, Man Feelings is “about a minute and half shorter than Pink Moon and far less embarrassing.”
Jessica Hopper, Gossip Wolf
Chicagoans doing what they’re known for, dusting off the Midwest tool & die math/noise/boogie rock motif for a new year, decades away from the prime cut of that sound (Jesus Lizard, Tar, Shorty) but investing vigor, non-cruel laffs, and weirdness into the fray in a manner that most current practitioners are too serious (or just not good enough) to muster. Recorded at Electrical and featuring one of its employees, Fake Limbs put on the bulk required to bust through the walls of convention in a flailing tangle of Speedos and chest hair. I think recognizing the inherent idiocy in this sort of music is the only way to overcome its limitations, because you find ways to capitalize on something that is truly, uniquely dumb fun, and can dial down the unpleasant attitudes of this music’s historical fanbase, throwing it right back in their faces and making them enjoy being cut down (“Balding But Angry,” “Your Comments Are Atrocious”). I like this type of thing when a band knows this and can act on it, because I’ve seen the other side of things – largely relegated to the piss-trough of most garage punk in this day and age, and do not want to see it spill over into something I care for yet again. Fake Limbs passes the test.
Doug Mosurock, still-single.tumblr.com
Hairy and sweaty with veins pumping blood, there is nothing fake about Chicago’s Fake Limbs or their elpee “Man Feelings.” They hit hard. They lock down rhythms with serious intent and the combination creates an adrenal effect. The effect is capitalized by frontman Stephen Sowley, whose vocal delivery comes from somewhere between the threat bark of Helmet’s Page Hamilton and David Yow’s writhing grunt.
Jeff Moody, Stripwax
Rockin’ Roll Chicago…. Fake Limbs is here with their power-packed punch to the face release ‘Man Feelings’ on BLVD Records. Fake Limbs is like a drink of one shot of Jesus Lizard, one shot of Stooges, a splash of 70′s guitar riffage, and getting fucked up on all this kick ass 100 proof Rock N Roll goodness. ‘Man Feelings’ has that live/raw studio recording sound with rippin’ and grinding guitars, growling and snearing vocals, smashing and pounding percussion/bass that makes you believe rock is back and Fake Limbs fucking coming to get you.
No slouches themselves when it comes to rocking out, Chicago quartet Fake Limbs traffic in the more humorous, absurdist side of noisy punk, like Minneapolis’s STNNNG. (How could they not be a little self-effacing, based on [the kitchen press photo], and on song titles like “Balding But Angry.”)
Manly is not a manly enough word to describe this testosterone scramble that manages to somehow utilize AmRep aesthetics and be kind of fun and funny at the same time. I heard they were booked to play Tammy Duckworth’s victory party.
Music wise, Fake Limbs are, as previously mentioned, much a product of the surrounding Chicago area showing flashes of past notables like Jesus Lizard, Tar, Shorty, and so on. The bit of choppy abrasiveness is then funneled through a hefty dose of 70’s riff rock, leaving the album with a nice balance between the rough stuff and the rockin’. At just over twenty five minutes, the pace is kept at a speed that suits their sound perfectly, allowing the frequent injections of riffs to stay fresh. Recorded at Electrical Audio, the drums and bass make for a record that sounds mammoth coming out of the speakers. Particularly on a track like “Hanging Kudzu”, which is a lumbering rock beast that actually represents both sides of the band perfectly. Give it a listen, cool record.
The debut album, superbly titled Man Feelings, is a crunching fusion of classic hard rock with a knowing post-1977 twist. Imagine Black Sabbath at their most versatile, with the fuzz stripped back and replaced by the blistering lizard-brained rhythmic overload of original proto-punks The Stooges and you’ll certainly be in the right ballpark. It’s at once louder, funkier and more devilishly brazen than it has any right to be. Great primitive rock music is chiefly about memorable moments, in particular those which evoke the sensations of being front row and centre at a live show. Thanks to some appropriately sympathetic recording by Jon San Paolo in Studio A of Electrical Audio, Man Feelings has a gigantic sonic presence which invokes the spontaneity and impact of a live rock band, not to mention vivid imagery of throbbing amps, dripping sweat and the unmistakable stench of bourbon. It’s easily the most comically rocking album you’ll hear all year, jam-packed with bruising riffs, galloping rhythms and hollered vocalisations. For those tired of style over substance fussiness in modern rock, it’s the ultimate tonic.