Recorded […] during three days in Rockland, Maine where I didn’t leave the house, wore slippers everyday & played until the cops came.

— John Lutkevich, AKA Soft Fangs

So goes the explanation of Fractures, the latest album from John Lutkevich’s Soft Fangs. Far from being an interesting line to fill the Bandcamp page, the idea feels pertinent to the record, as though shaping the songs into very specific shapes and textures, forcing them to become uniquely intimate and intense. As such, the record achieves a very personal feel underlined with an edge of discomfort, the sort of relationship you might develop should you be locked in the same room with someone for three days, growing to understand their smallest details while stress and boredom whittle away your patience, the dwindling resources adding a vaguely primal unease.

Indeed, the recurring theme of hunger and inadequate resources permeates the Soft Fangs sound, coupled with a wider sense of imprisonment. Scratch the surface and Fractures is near enough a protest record, even if the thing being criticised is nebulous or ubiquitous enough to escape being named. Opener ‘Elephant Girl’ paints longing and the betrayed feeling upon it not being reciprocated, while ‘Honey Colony’ allows itself to be more upfront, portraying a deep dissatisfaction with the capitalist system through a hymenopteran lens of work and self-sacrifice.

“I believe there’s more to see,
than the honey colony.
I’ve been trapped inside my hive, barely alive.
Working for a queen who I’ll never get to see.”

‘Apple Picking’ is similarity scathing (“Taking the fruit for granted, while other people starve”), while ‘Shells from a Smoking Snail’ details a more general disquiet, as though those that dare show (or even imagine) any deviation from the accepted system must do so under a suspicious, all-seeing eye. ‘No Cops’ is even more explicit, a claustrophobic song on police brutality, shot through with dread, while ‘Weed Spiders’ asks a question that could sum up the entire album in a single line. “But what do you know about struggle?” Lutkevich, his voice even and gentle and all the more pressing for it.

‘Cartoons’ can be viewed as the make-shift solution to the problem, which amounts to nothing more than high-energy entertainment taken in huge doses as a kind of anaesthetic, feeling empty even as you sit down to begin.

“Sighed, then turned on the TV.
And let the static wash your face.”

Taking us back in time to apathetic teachers, ‘Jordan // Jackson Elementary’ is something of an introduction, the entry point to the system Soft Fangs struggles with so fiercely, while ‘Mistress’ zooms us back to the present, where the cumulative pressures have eroded all belief in love and wonder into a nihilistic nub. “He said: ‘I don’t believe in love, so why should I make it?'” Lutkevich sings, “It’s built to destroy those who create it.” With this in mind, closer ‘We Don’t Live Together Anymore’ plays like the epilogue, capturing the endgame of a system where nothing matters beyond the creation of wealth, all sense of individuality, hope and love atrophied beyond use, leaving a benumbed figure, alone, warmed only by accumulated possessions.

“Home alone, with nothing left to eat,
buried in junk I always thought I’d need.
But now it owns me.”

Fractures is available now via Disposable America and you can get it on Bandcamp, including lovely cassette and vinyl editions.