Working at a mixing board one night, a catchphrase popped into Greg Obis’ head: “freak frequency.” He was ringing out feedback during his job as a sound engineer, and started to picture the parallels between acoustic physics and political trends. “If you think about a waveform, as the frequency rises, the space between the sine waves gets less and less,” Obis explains. “With that downward trend comes constant heightening, stress and tension.” He came to see freak frequency as an apt metaphor for the decline of Western empire, an inverse relationship between the (positive) deterioration of American hegemony and the (negative) worsening of daily life under that fall. It was a fitting title for the new material Obis was planning for Stuck, the frenetic and twisted post-punk outfit he formed in 2018. Inspired by the doomy social economics of Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, the bleak worldbuilding of horror games Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne, and the bombastic yet arty satire of Devo, Obis channeled his audio analogy into Freak Frequency, an album ringing out with explosive sounds and ideas. Though its songs tackle the violence of wealth, the nightmares of technocracy, and the rise of the conspiratorial layman, Freak Frequency is Stuck’s quirkiest record to date—compositionally challenging and equipped with menace, yet dotted with vibrant fun. “Being in a brooding post-punk band isn’t that appealing to me,” jokes Obis. “When things are bad, all you can really do is laugh.”
Stuck formed after Obis’ previous projects, Yeesh and Clearance, called it quits in short proximity. Obis is on guitar and vocals, which span from booming theatrics to ecstatic yelps. The project’s rhythm section is completed by shoegaze guitarist-turned-chugging bassist David Algrim and tightly wound drummer Tim Green—also a graphic designer, and the artist responsible for Stuck’s distinctively unified visual aesthetic. Original co-guitarist Donny Walsh contributed freely inventive lines for the first few years of the project, including on Freak Frequency; Ezra Saulnier of Red Tunic, the newest member of the band, now brings calculated contrapuntal riffs to match Obis’ parts. The building blocks of Stuck include the egg punk eccentricities of Uranium Club and The Coneheads filtered through noise rock power, à la Jesus Lizard or Slint; that melange is glittered with the precision microtones of Unwound and Women. “I want the feeling of immersion and chaos and tension, with a big guitar amp playing a big chord,” says Obis of his inspirations, citing friends and peers Cloud Nothings and Preoccupations. “But I want it delivered by having a lot of smaller points of light poking through.”
“Time Out,” with motoric guitars in the sputtering lineage of Wire, was composed in late 2019. Obis wrote it about the cycles of compulsion and shame woven into social media use, and the way negativity drives algorithmic engagement.