STRFKR, Being No One, Going Nowhere

Post Author: Steven Ward

Aimlessly drifting in a liminal state, STRFKR’s fourth album Being No One, Going Nowhere lingers heavily in your mind long after you’ve left behind its mosaic of spacey synth soundscapes. A dense collection of intricate narratives, through which both lyrics and lush atmospherics bleed together in harrowing experiences, the band’s latest expose is both cosmic in breadth and poignantly focused on the individual. Incepted by founder Joshua Hodges in his self-exile to Joshua Tree, Being No One, Going Nowhere takes you on sci-fi tinged odyssey that’s unabashedly directed inward, not outward. Drawing on an eye-opening revelation at a BDSM club, Hodges “realized that the appeal is letting go of your mind and stress. You can be super present with the pain, and then the pain isn’t even pain. It’s a gateway to freedom.”

Perched on the threshold of that gateway, Hodges’ songs writhe dually in ebullience and woe as their respective characters attempt to shed the weight of their identities–but the transition is hardly without casualties. In its opening track “Tape Machine,” the devastating nature of addiction is pulled into illumination by zaps of buoyant synths and rollicking percussion/guitar licks as its speaker puts to question: “Was this trouble your nature/Why can’t you shake it?” The entirety of Being No One, Going Nowhere spirals on like this, balancing frighteningly in a tightrope act between enlightenment and self-destruction. From the reality-bending release from desire in “Never Ever,” a perilous coming of age tale hidden within the riff-filled verve of “Open Your Eyes,” to acute isolation and severance from the world in “Satellite” (“My thoughts all evil and pure/Gone away from my own design”), excising the burden of identity and finding purpose is a far from hazardless task. On the album’s intermission “interspace,” English thinker/writer Alan Watts–an integral staple of STRFKR’s music–can be heard espousing this goal of abandoning preconceived notions of identity in order to find one’s true place in the universe.

Yet, for all its meditative inquisitions, Being No One, Going Nowhere burns brightest in its restructuring of STRFKR’s necessitative, dance-ready songs into opaquely glistening voyages of self-exploration. Sonically, Hodges and company have expanded their booming, slick beats and voracious earworm hooks into a nebula of unfolding instrumentals that embody the album’s philosophical gravity, as much as they accompany it. On “In The End,” a celestial disco unwinds itself into ever-expanding infinity, while in “Maps” thick clouds of austere synths billow skyward as Hodge’s grainy transmissions blink through the fog; there is a palpable dichotomy at work in their songs, caught somewhere between the colossal scope of M83 and metaphysical tangibility of Tame Impala. But frenetic indie-pop and dizzying synth plays still dominate STRFKR’s core pairing of exuberant melodies with the bleakly sincere overtones of their lyrics, and the dualities of Being No One, Going Nowhere will no doubt translate spectacularly to the emotional helter-skelter of their live shows.
“You’re alright where you are/Being no one/Going nowhere.” So echoes the swelling finale and eponymous last song. Finally collapsing into that yearned for nothingness, the rest of the album’s chaotic scramblings are emphatically diluted and filtered out through a steady stream of elongated murmurs, futuristic blips, and looping synths. The surge continues in a mild crescendo before dissipating into the cosmos, and for the first time in the album’s forty-minute run, that aspired freedom of release is achieved in the absolute nothingness of soundless emotion.