Constructing a Mental Breakdown traverses the knife's edge of the abject and ecstatic. It's loud to the point of extremity, but not 'heavy' in a traditional sense. The power of this sound is in its invigorating lightness. Where others would mimic a lion's roar, Not Your Friends adopt the acidic hiss of snakes.
Like a mathcore-inflected Nails, this band perform with an absurd level of aggression. Nails' machismo is here, however, subbed out in favour of a brutal feminine howl. This inversion is actualised in the lyrics of 'Abort', the album's opener. 'Abort' aims for both a spiritual and physical castration of male bullshit merchants. If the English language had a word without the judgement inherent in shrew, harpy, hag, or witch, it would be embodied here.
In its first half, Constructing a Mental Breakdown heaps on the distressing content. It's corporeal, caustic, and draws in images of abuse, violence, and bodily fluids and functions. There's a stop off to the town of Twin Peaks with 'It Is Happening Again', exploring the show's darkest and most arresting scene, in which a character is driven into Missoula, Montana. That the song manages to recreate this scene's horrific lack of staginess, while retaining its tact and sympathy, is hugely impressive.
And from 'Sebastian No' onwards, the album's tone lightens. Violence is still present, but it's exaggerated; played for laughs. And the two penultimate tracks, especially when contrasted with what comes before them, are both incredibly sweet. The tail end of this album is like a decompression chamber. Not Your Friends let you sink to the bed of depravity and avoid nitrogen sickness on the ascent.
Constructing a Mental Breakdown is available for streaming and purchase here. Proceeds of every album sale to Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. Donations can also be made to this worthy cause at paar.net.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe