Shriekback: Live At The Orange ’94 – UK – CD-R 
- The Preparation
- Over The Wire
- Captain Cook
- Dingle Dai
- Faded Flowers
- Invisible Rays
- Pretty Little Things
- The Consummation
This offering popped up a short while back and after sampling a track, ‘Seething” that the band sent to the mailing list to get a handle on its audio quality. The band themselves likened it to a bootleg, which hit the mark honestly. Knowing that, I was enamored of this almost “lost in the wilderness” phase of the band, and here was a chance to hear some of the material that would eventually manifest on the great “Naked Aped + Pond Life” album of acoustic Shriekback! This was the only such sonic artifact claimed by Mr. Andrews of that period, so I used my fortnightly stipend to see what it was all about.
It speaks volumes that of all of the many Post-Punk bands I enjoyed and collected, only Shriekback ever played the acoustic game this exceedingly well. As I often rail about my favorites going all singer-songwriter once they realize that it could be easier money than trucking around a rock band hither and yon, the important thing for me is that I grew up in the singer-songwriter era. I didn’t like it then, and I [mostly] don’t like it now. In fact, that was the reason why I gravitated to Post-Punk Rock in the first place. It had zero to do with this sound and attitude. If I had wanted to hear Jim Croce, I would have been listening to him instead of Simple Minds and Ultravox!
That said, Shriekback [as recounted in the liner notes here] were playing in acoustic format for reasons of economy/autonomy. As a 4-5 piece without amps, they could still ply their trade without the overhead of P.A. rental in a period when the band was on tentative ground fiscally. As Mr. Andrews stated here, the music industry was beginning it’s downward slide from unreliable to unstable. In a few years, Napster would do its best to kill it off entirely. It can be said to have succeeded, 20 years later.
What made this more than acceptable, was that in no way were the textures and attitudes that made Shriekback who they are mitigated by the fact that the sounds were acoustically driven. By jingo, these were all still Shriekback songs with that ineffable artistic P.O.V. that we can count on getting from them every time out, no matter what the stylistic shifts that may be occurring. Better still, the stringed things here were all from the more obscure to Western ears tributaries of music. Lu Edmonds played the saz. Simon Edwards played bass and sintir. Mark Raduva played didgeridoo and the more common mandolin. The core of Martyn Barker and Barry Andrews played drums and accordion, respectively. Everyone but Andrews doubled on percussion. So this is a zesty, heady mix that offers much flavor to take the place of the normal synths and guitars. One could even get used to it.
The album opened and closed with a pair of instrumentals that would do any belly dancers in the range of hearing proud. “Over The Wire” let it be known that even in Persian/Turkish drag, there was still just one Shriekback and even a cut from the misfired “Go Bang” could take on new and vital life if given a lifeline with a more interesting arrangement and performance. “Unsong” was one of the four songs here that would later turn up on the “Naked Apes + Pond Life” album that first alerted me to the vivacity of an acoustic Shriekback back in 2002, when I bought that CD in Tower D.C. [r.i.p.]. I had heard about the semi-legendary “Captain Cook” and it’s appearance here did not shy away from the more anthropological aspects of his journey. I would expect no less from Shriekback.
“Hostage” and “Berlin” seemed to be only partially cooked in their early forms here. The latter took several minutes of simmer until it began to approach “boil.” These were perhaps the most throwaway aspects of the program. The two Shriekback songs any fan would recognize here were no stretch, being the largely acoustic numbers that they had always been, even in the context of their respective albums.
The fully disclosed acoustic qualities of the recording [I’d be willing to bet a Walkman® recording model was to blame here] revealed a mic placement close enough to get the band captured with what sounded like a fair stereo image reasonably well… along with all of the reveling patrons probably inches away from the stage, too. If I were grading this as a bootleg, I’d say that it rated a C+ for a mic recording. But, that was discussed up front, and the sample track sent to the mailing list was typical of this recording, which, it should be stressed, was 100% consistent from start to finish. No jostling the mic noises competed with the music.
And the music was pretty tasty sauce. This was the only acoustic Shriekback recording [that the band knows about, at any rate] and thus it was offered as an archival piece. To finally hear “Captain Cook” and material like the spiffy “Dingle Dai” was worth having a less than Spectoresque recording. The final verdict? Acoustic Shriekback worked a charm and was worthy of this release for fans of a certain disposition. The band can reach back to this sound and style at any time and I’m more than fine with it. The only thing that Shriekback seemingly failed at was going ‘mersh. There are still some left to buy if this has your name on it, but they won’t last forever.
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