Jeff Fribourg is a photographer and visual artist who just happens to be a damn fine musician to boot. His photographs showcase clean worlds inhabited by punks and skateboarders and all sorts of people your grandparents might find undesirable. When he’s not working with Levi’s or snapping shots of No Age, he makes music under the moniker Numb.er, which, in many ways, follows the model of his photographic eye. After his work in LA underground darlings Froth came to an end, Fribourg decided to once again try his hand at this music thing, and once again he makes it look extremely easy.
Numb.er’s debut LP, Goodbye (which is premiering here at Noisey), is populated with barking post-punk, a record indebted to Wire and Television—whoever first earned the adjective angular for rolling up jangly balls of aggression—and My Bloody Valentine. Fribourg’s voice is sardonic, like he’s being forced to read words off a page he’s just encountered. But Goodbye manages to find the humanity within the sterile trappings Fribourg sets up as his premise. It’s a broken world and Fribourg’s album spends its duration debating whether or not it’s worth fixing.
“Without Bloom” features a “la la la” chorus pushed up against a backdrop of sharply pulsing guitars, thrashing drums, and Fribourg’s own ambivalence. It’s a flower sprouted from a concrete patch, the sort of thing that doesn’t make sense but is reassuring in its wonder. “State Lines” is a lullaby for zombies, as Fribourg’s drunk delivery makes his words almost indecipherable in their slurred dizziness. It’s a road trip gone too long, the hours blending together and the passing through state lines less a cause for celebration than a reminder that there’s oh so long to go. “Nothing matters / Seen it all before,” Fribourg sings. It’s these relatable moments of unearthed humanity that make Goodbye one of the more intriguing takes on post-punk’s many iterations offered this year.
The album’s last track, “We Hide,” recalls some of the more robotic machinations of bands like Preoccupations, showcasing hip-hop hand claps, Fribourg’s monotone delivery, and the interplay of probing guitars with atmospheric synths. “We break down barriers to find the things that make her feel alright,” Fribourg sings before lamenting, “We hide.” It’s a vacillation between confidence and cowardice, the willingness to fight in front of the thing that will destroy you.
Goodbye is at its strongest when Fribourg pushes against his music’s inherent simplicity, producing a complex range of emotions that takes this record from another morose take on modernity into an assertion of independence and a fresh look at the way 21st century malaise shapes us. Numb.er’s Goodbye is drowning in existential dread. Its power lies in Jeff Fribourg’s declaration that this is a thing worth rescuing.
Goodbye is streaming up above in advance of its release on felte tomorrow, May 25. It's available to pre-order now over at Numb.er's Bandcamp.