Published Apr 09, 2020The new record from Chicago supergroup Friend/Enemy — featuring members of Cap'n Jazz, Mute Duo, Fruit Bats, Joan of Arc and American Football — sounds like a sun-fucked wanderer stumbling toward the edge of town. Written in response to Trump's election, HIH NO/ON was lost in the shuffle for nearly four years — though the record was written in very different times, it feels like a bit of serendipity that it's come to light now.
Bandleader Tim Kinsella has called the album his attempt at a "simple guitar rock record." Thankfully, he and his bandmates fail pretty spectacularly at meeting that goal. HIH NO/ON sounds like math rock performed by number-averse high schoolers — the formula's gone south at some point, each answer a bit off the mark. It makes for a thrillingly shambolic and just-a-bit off-kilter record, buzzing with a nervous energy that keeps it from slipping into apathetic sloppiness.
Kinsella trades vocal duties with his Good Fuck bandmate Jenny Pulse, fka Spa Moans, and the two weave in and around each other in the same manner as the guitars, creating a pervasive sense of friction. HIH NO/ON sometimes recalls the mechanical organics of Buke and Gase's General Dome — lumbering songs that are constantly on the verge of collapse, propelled by some strange internal engine.
It's not always clear what the album is meant to mean, or if it means anything specific at all. It's driven by generalized political anxiety more than any sort of nuance, more fevered ramblings of an election-addled mind than cogent analysis. The lyrics to "Love is a Metabolic Neon Cave" consist almost entirely of the phrase "It's totally totalitarianism" — these are songs built from panic, equal parts fight and flight. It's a stroke of luck — maybe bad luck — that they've arrived at such a fitting time.