Why Anything? Why This? – Shriekback (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

927529There is no template for a Shriekback album, we worked that out a long time ago. They have that brilliant way about them, a way of using different sonic building blocks from album to album, from track to track, and yet always sound like Shriekback and blending that sort of quintessential familiarity with the ability to be so musically flexible is the magic formula that all bands worth their salt should be searching for. Thankfully, few bands manage to capture such seemingly mutually exclusive concepts and so the band remain a brilliant go to for those looking for exceptions rather than rule followers.

As opening salvo Shovelheads bursts forth, it gives you an indication of some of the loose boundaries of their sonic playground this time out. Sleazy and raw guitars, sumptuous harmonies, diabolical gospel vibes and a more organic approach to the sound all resulting in the same apocalyptic blues, southern mutant grooves and blasted, wasteland rock vibes that the likes of Nick Cave and Jeffery Lee Pierce revelled in.

As always, their love of language is apparent with puns and word play, twisted narratives and dark nursery rhymes, the poetic, the profound and the profane all playing out. Never has a lyric had the ability to run from the Byronic to the moronic (in the most knowing and positive sense of the meaning) in such a short space. “The dog man don’t but the cat-man-du”..apparently! Geditt? Oh, never mind.

Lead single, And The Rain tips a battered Fedora at Tom Waits, The Painter Paints is a blend of philosophical spoken word, scattered jazz fragments and late night soulfulness and 37 is a post-punk sea shanty to be sung as the final maelstrom pulls us under the waves. A reference to the band’s age too perhaps? As always it’s a joy to spend time in Shriekback’s world, a world of words and musical gene-splicing, a place that seems to exist with one foot in the dark underbelly of modern society and the other in a parallel, mirror world woven from their own wonderful imaginations, thoughts and fears. 

We hear a lot of talk these days of the post-genre musical world, a place where the tribal allegiances and lines of demarcation have been swept away and people are free to mix and match musical ideas as they see fit. News flash kiddies, Shriekback has been approaching music that way for more than three decades!


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