Stuck’s Change is Bad slipped under the radar in 2020, but not quietly. The Chicago band’s wiry post-hardcore is rooted in their home city’s tradition of punchy noise-rock scrape (Jesus Lizard, Shellac) intertwined with the twitchy new wave of Devo, never simply muscular for its own sake, never content to stay in the same place for too long, either. Stuck’s music is anxious and unsettled, agitated as much by the sheer momentum of their musical impulses as they are by a capitalistic outside world determined to laugh in their penthouses while the world slowly burns.
Which probably makes it pretty clear that Content That Makes You Feel Good is as much an ironic title for their new EP as it is a paradoxical one—but by no means a dishonest one. The five short, frayed punk songs on the band’s new 12-minute release are built around truths that feel bad above all, like the outsized power and abuses of that power in “City of Police” or the hustle-culture fallacy of “Labor Leisure” (“And all your free time feels like work time/And all your leisure feels like labor“). And by invoking “content,” a stand-in for empty-calorie clickbait fodder, the band pokes fun at the idea that anything so disposable could make you feel anything.
But here’s where the irony comes in: This music does feel good, in all its frustration, abrasion and discomfort. There will always be something satisfying about a band that uses guitars, bass and drums to tear their way through their grievances, and Stuck make it sound a lot more fun than most bands in recent memory. The truth at the heart of “City of Police” is fucked up, but Stuck address it in a way that’s neither preachy nor hectoring, but just pissed off enough to be motivating. And on a more introspective track like “Playpen of Dissent,” Stuck strike the right balance between direct, melodic and wandering, offering a psychedelic swirl of post-hardcore beneath meditations on the nature of what’s subversive. Content That Makes You Feel Good delivers exactly what it promises, it just does so in a way that redirects its anger toward the causes of what made you feel bad in the first place.
Label: Exploding in Sound
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.