When thinking of American cities that have the best punk or grunge music scenes, Portland, Seattle, or even New York City are some of the first to come to mind. The Honky-tonk central and bachelorette-paradise that is Nashville is a city seldom at the forefront in rock counterculture circles. That didn’t stop The F-Use from releasing I Don’t Feel Like I Belong Here, which dropped October 23rd, a record inspired by the likes of Nirvana, the White Stripes, and Foo Fighters.
Contrary to what you might initially think, The F-Use consists of just one member. Matthew Estevez is the musician behind the guitar, bass, percussion, and vocals of the group. Every track was recorded at his Nashville home, something that might be considered impressively ambitious a year prior, but especially convenient in the world of quarantine. Estevez confessed the name of his musical project was originally going to be The Fuck You’s, a name that sums up the angsty themes that his music encompasses. Naturally, The F-Use made for an easier, more PG title, but the punk sentiment behind the original name remains transparent in its current discography.
Estevez can tack songwriter on his list of musical credentials as well, as each song is personally written by him. This makes for a deeply personal 11 tracks, which take a vulnerable deep dive into his experiences with depression, loneliness, and paint an intimate portrait of both of his parents. Estevez says the album is meant to be listened to in its original track listing from start to finish to fully grapple with the flow of his emotions.
So without further adieu, here’s an introspective look at each song in the order they were strategically placed.
One More Chance Dad: Estevez immediately opens the album with a very personal look at his frustrations with his father. Gritty guitar riffs and heavy percussion pave the way for his aggressive vocals. Already, we’re made aware that this is a record inspired by Estevez’ personal experiences.
For the Love of God: The lead single of the album, this track is packed with stamina from the very beginning. Inspired by being locked up during quarantine, lyrics like “stuck inside a cage and I’m not getting out alive,” are sure to resonate with listeners anxious of being cooped up.
Hear Me Scream: This track begins with the most subdued entrance of the album thus far, starting with only a guitar. Estevez builds onto the song with his vocals, carefully layering more instrumentation as the song progresses. The result is a sonic climax reflective of the existentialism found in Estevez’ lyrics. The theme tackles the inevitability of death and the anxiety that comes with it. He ends the song with his vocals and some guitar chords, asking “Do you hear me scream? / Do you feel me reaching out?” A cry for help amongst the uncertainty of life.
Hourglass: One of the mellower tracks of the album, this song repeatedly asks the listener if they see him reaching out to them. The acoustic instrumentation makes for a more calming soundscape, with a great guitar solo during the bridge.
Overdrive: Don’t be confused with the last song, however, because “Overdrive” is filled to the brim with adrenaline. Short and to the point, this song is packed with aggression and raw power.
I’m Still Me: This song’s theme focuses on a fear that all of us have, but few bother to confess — the fear of revealing our true selves. The guitar solo during the bridge of this song is the highlight of the track, while lyrics like “How can I tell anyone / who I feel like I’ve become / should I keep it all inside my head?” show Estevez’ vulnerability and anxieties of opening up to others in fear of judgement.
Use Me: This is the shortest song of the album at only a minute and a half, making for a great interlude. Guitar riffs splice Estevez’ harsh screams amongst lyrics complaining about being used by others, which is why it’s a perfect anthem to blow off steam.
Dear Mom: By far the most intimate moment of the album, “Dear Mom” is dedicated to the relationship between Estevez and his mother. Don’t be fooled by the tenderness of the song’s subject matter, however, because the instrumentation still takes a grunge inspiration consistent with the rest of the record. Estevez does a great job juxtaposing sensitive topics with powerful rock melodies, and this song does a fine job of showcasing that.
You’ll Be Alright: “You’ll Be Alright” is one of the more optimistic tracks of the album thus far, where Estevez promises the listener that things will work themselves out in the end. The end has him singing the phrase “There’s no giving up now”, promising the listener he’ll be by their side.
In My Head: Starting with just an acoustic guitar, Estevez layers more instruments to this song as it progresses. This is another vulnerable moment in the album, where Estevez admits to loneliness and his preference to stay inside his head for security.
I Don’t Feel Like I Belong Here: At long last, we reach the title track. The lyrics are Estevez’ cry for someone else to share his burden and alleviate his loneliness, while the end reflects his insecurity by asking “do you not want me?” The album ends with Estevez’ need for dependence on someone else, while simultaneously being afraid they’ll reject him when he asks.
To summarize, I Don’t Feel Like I Belong Here is a record that is a very personal confession of Estevez’ fears, anxieties, and vulnerabilities. Its themes are raw and intimate, while its production and instrumentation are sure to attract rock fans nostalgic of the 90’s. In conclusion, The F-Use is another reminder that Nashville has more than just honky-tonks and bridesmaids — it has a rock renaissance just a few blocks from Broadway that has no plans of slowing down.