Punk lifer Chris Farren makes sunny songs full of complicated emotions | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Punk lifer Chris Farren makes sunny songs full of complicated emotions 

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Chris Farren

Chris Farren

Courtesy the Artist

Florida punk-scene staple Chris Farren has spent much of the past decade refining one of the most endearing tongue-in-cheek personas since Stephen Colbert’s 11-season-long Colbert Report neocon shtick. On Twitter and Instagram as well as in real life, Farren plays at being an overconfident pretty boy, and he’s stuck with the gimmick long enough to become something like a scene mascot—he’s on the cover of Pets Hounds, the 2015 debut by Chicago emo trio Pet Symmetry, and the band also bundled paper cutout masks of Farren’s face with copies of the LP at their Subterranean record-release show. Farren riffs on that persona with his solo albums—including his third, October’s Born Hot (Polyvinyl), whose clean rock songs he punches up with power-pop hooks and plays with uncanny precision. But the music’s surface perfection stands in sharp contrast to the anxiety, unease, and vulnerability in Farren’s catchy lyrics, which suggest that his social-media performances are part of the same sort of complicated balancing act between performance and reality that we all do when we post a personal update online. The sweet, upbeat ditty “R U Still There?” is about how the death of a parent can drive a wedge between a couple, but Farren’s cheerful delivery makes even his descriptions of new unease in a long-term relationship feel hopeful.   v

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