Monday, November 12, 2007

Shriekback - Glory Bumps

Shriekback's eleventh studio album, Glory Bumps, is both a continuation of lead singer/songwriter Barry Andrews' long-running neo-primitive sound as well as a throw-back to the Shriek's earlier, edgier rock scuttles. Eschewing the programmed percussion that flattened the sound of Shriekback's last album, the brilliant but flawed Cormorant, Glory Bumps is something of a return to form. I say "something" because for Andrews there is hardly a form. Sure, it's not difficult recognizing a Shriekback song -- the funky bass slithers, the turtle-shell percussion, the synth noodlings and doomy washes and Andrew's grave whisper -- but musically Glory Bumps harkens back to the earliest stirrings of the band when they were more experimental forces than proper recording artists. While Andrew's songwriting remains consistent with his later output, this new album shines a light into the deep waters of what most fans may have considered thoroughly explored territory.

The album opens with the anthem, "Hooray for Everything". It's all loud rolling drums and crawling synth revs and it's somewhat similar to Snog's equally satiric "Hooray!!" "The Bride Stripped Bare" is a fierce monster of snarls and quietly disturbing piano interludes that fades out into a grimy little riff. Glory Bump's first real standout track is the impressionistic funeral dirge on acid, "Burying the Bunny." It's New Orleans via Midian and is highlighted by wolf howls and skeletal keys. Andrew's turns up the ghastly humor in lines like "this benediction isn't something I desire/it was a while ago before I felt so sunny/it's all ridiculous to that I am resigned/and that intensity is very, very funny." A real treat. "Bittersweet" is, as the title implies, a quieter affair and it's as close to anything from Big Night Music that the band has come in the past decade. Choice lines include: "raking through some existential drivel/it was grudgingly sublime, perhaps a waste of time." Glory Bumps finest song is the achingly beautiful "Amaryllis in the Sprawl." Like Oil and Gold's "This Big Hush" or Big Night Music's "Underwater Boys," "Amaryllis in the Sprawl" is a languid meditation (Martyn Baker's percussion is just dead on and the didgeridoo is exquisite) with a soul elevating chorus that is begging for some cinematic use. Best listened to driving at night, it's a Shriekback masterpiece. "Mahalia" is a companion piece to Big Night Music's "Running of the Rocks," all barren but beautiful tumbling chorus and driving, jazzy rhythm. This wouldn't be out of place in a spaghetti western. ("It's a deeply satisfying sound/Mahalia.") The title track, "Glory Bumps", is something of an oddity, a one-off. A snide attack on evangelical thumping, it's loud and aggressive and over-the-top. While the lyrics and clever and cutting, the stagy music is just a bit too shapeless to really deliver the goods. Like Cormorant's "Bonehead", "Squanderer" is a funky cutter. Andrew's falls back on his lyrical listing (a trope from the very beginnings of the band) and some of it is quite silly ("I wanna get a lick of the exorcist stick" Note: Barry clarifies that it's actually "ecstasy stick") but the harmonica infused chorus is undeniably catchy. "Devil's Onions" continues the dusty jams and sounds surprisingly like something from late-90s The The. Great key work and some really nice horns over the "golden age" chorus. The album wraps the instrumental "Yarg 7", similar to Cormorant's burbling "Huytfi Dbl Plus" but without the beats.

All in all amazing.

Buy the album at Malicious Damage Records (see link). There is a limited edition Advent calendar/double vinyl release of Glory Bumps with three additional tracks. Here is more info: "...beautifully packaged in a rapture-ready endtime advent calendar, complete with little windows that open revealing all your little symbols of approaching end-of-the-worldness... the vinyl is packaged in a pure white sleeve and can be stored separately while the calendar can be hung on the wall to impress the vicar when he comes round for tea... there'll also be a numbered personalised certificate of authentication signed by the reverend andrews and a malicious damage representative, plus a few other bits and bobs..." Only 100 made so get it while you can.

No comments: