Besinger tries to be poet — and he succeeds

The STNNNG frontman’s release of his collection of song lyrics and fresh poems “The Usual Beast” is cleverly painful and painfully clever.

Poet and lyricist Chris Besinger Thursday outside Diamonds coffee shop.

Image by Mark Vancleave

Poet and lyricist Chris Besinger Thursday outside Diamonds coffee shop.

by Mark Brenden

Famed poet and longtime University of Minnesota professor Michael Dennis Browne once likened song lyrics devoid of their musical buoyancy to âÄúa boat without water.âÄù Those of local punk mainstay STNNNG’s (pronounced âÄústunningâÄù) lead man Chris Besinger, displayed in his debut collection of song lyrics and a few fresh poems âÄúThe Usual Beast,âÄù are (if you are still following the metaphor) one of those Bond- esque car-boats that can aptly propel on land or sea. STNNNG has been hard rocking and unabashedly vowel-less on the Minneapolis scene since 2003, and BesingerâÄôs gritty intellectual lyrics are one of the bandâÄôs main attractions. With âÄúThe Usual Beast,âÄù we can pick up all the poetic nuggets that get muffled by the guitar-riffed and drum-filled madness. âÄúI had a bunch of people talk to me saying they really liked the lyrics, and sometimes they couldn’t really hear what I was screaming about,âÄù Besinger said. âÄúSo, that was part of the reason we released the book.âÄù âÄúPutting out a book was something that’s always been a dream of mine, but I waited for somebody else to tell me to do it,âÄù he added. In âÄúThe Usual Beast,âÄù itâÄôs remarkable just how well the song lyrics stand on their own two feet. BesingerâÄôs words are like an orphan who ran away from his punk music parents to fend for himself on the streets of hard rock. The result is closer to BesingerâÄôs poetic idols John Ashbery and Bill Knott than to Johnny Rotten and Joey Ramone. âÄúWhen we write a song, the tunes always come first, so I try to shoehorn the lyrics to fit the music,âÄù Besinger said. âÄúWhen I write the poems, I’m freer to do anything I feel like. Usually, with the lyrics, I’m pretty limited by how long the song is and stuff like that.âÄù Plenty of people have pronounced poetry as good as dead. Whether its killer be the Internet, rock âÄònâÄô roll, adderall-sized attention spans or the death of Allen Ginsberg , many folks have given up on the most ancient of art forms. Besinger doesnâÄôt look for it in the halls of academia but rather in the dudes that drop you off there. âÄúIâÄôd rather read some poetry written by a bus driver instead of some twit that went through a (Master of Fine Arts) program,âÄù Besinger said. Besides his apparent interest in the transportation system, Besinger said that his future involves more poetry and a new STNNNG record (finally). With fans who have waited four years for a follow-up to 2006âÄôs âÄúFake Fake ,âÄù the punk rockers have built up a âÄúChinese Democracy âÄú-esque cloud of expectation. âÄúI think itâÄôs going to be the best thing weâÄôve done,âÄù Besinger said.