Record Review: Shriekback – Having A Moment DLX RM

Shriekback | UK | CD-R | 2015

Shriekback | UK | CD-R | 2015

Shriekback: Having A Moment + Extras UK CD-R [2015]

  1. More Heat Than Light
  2. God’s Gardenias
  3. Going Equipped
  4. Seething
  5. Feverish Hands
  6. Baby Lions
  7. Take Me To The Tranquil Vermin
  8. Bleed The Monkey
  9. Barebones
  10. Claxons
  11. Friendly Shovels
  12. Rem Koolhaas Stole My Shovel
  13. Queen’s Beast

When Shriekback’s “Having A Moment” first appeared in 2003, it was produced under very different circumstances. With the band cut free, they were bleeding edge adopters of the crowdsourcing model with the Shrieback.com of the time offering music to subscribers  of they year 2001 who paid a certain amount, then got the spoils delivered directly, within a certain period, from the band. There’s a lot of appeal to this sort of direct commerce, but at the time, I most certainly did not have the money. I could only approve from afar and watch the Shriekback bus pass me by this time. Apparently the six track EP “Having A Moment” finally shipped out to the awaiting masses in 2003.  Until now, this has been a studiously difficult piece of the Shriekback puzzle to obtain.

With the band tearing up their legacy at their store in the last year, the time has come for them to reissue the package in a DLX RM. Seven demos have been added to the running time to bring it up to album length status with thirteen songs at a tidy 45 minutes. When this manifested a few weeks ago, I was able to order a copy. One week later, it was in my mailbox. So how is it?

“More Heat Than Light” started it out in Quixotic [for Shriekback] form with the resultant song being firmly in the 90s alt rock style with bass, guitar, and drums plus that certain attitude in your face, maaaan. Except for the typically Shriekbackian lyrics, it’s a deceptively straightforward number that was also released by Finn Andrews’ [ie. Barry’s son] band The Veils in 2002. That the track was co-written between Finn and his father with Carl Marsh accounts for both the atypical sound and it’s appearance on both band’s releases.

More interesting sounds that seemed to be in line with the acoustic Shriekback of “Naked Apes And Pond Life” were reflected in the infinitely more subtle “God’s Gardenias.” The band were walking on Tom Waits turf with the piano-led rhumba of “Going Equipped.” “Seething” was a number that would have fit comfortably on “Big Night Music.” What a shame that the number [the only one on the disc] was recorded/mastered in mono.

The kalimba-behooked “Feverish Hands” also stayed within the acoustic comfort zone of “Big Night Music” with delightful aplomb. Time has been kind to that album, so hearing Shriekback exploring its welcoming tributaries was most gratifying. The closing “Baby Lions” will be familiar [as a title] from “Naked Apes + Pond Life” but the version here was a completely different song. A meek instrumental had given its name to a noisy and writhing bucketful of enervated energy that only Shriekback could provide. It fairly explodes out of the speakers with a bold confidence that’s fairly breathtaking and that could only be Barry Andrews on the half-chanted, multi-tracked lead vocals that take no prisoners. Then came the garage demos.

“Take Me To The Tranquil Vermin” was a delightful dollop of tight, close, multitracked harmonies of Carlos Ascuitti with a few scattered organ chords and some chiming synth bells for accompaniment. Sort of like Die Zwei with an Italian accent. The appearance of violin on some of these tracks was a shock when it first appeared on the melodramatic piano ballad “Bleed The Monkey.” I can’t recall ever hearing the instrument on previous Shriekbackmusik.

“Claxons” was another song that had a familiar title for anyone with a copy of “Naked Aped And Pond Life,” but the song here was, again, a completely different composition with only a title similar to “Claxon Bolus.” That said, it’s a frantic, schizophrenic, binaural piece with frantic piano [L] and guitar and nerve-wracking synth [R] to accompany Andrews overripe wordspew.

As its name implies, “Friendly Shovels” was a demure funeral elegy with more violin to take the melodic lead with the bass and organ accompaniment. Andrews clearly had shovels on the mind when writing these tunes, but “Rem Koolhaas Stole My Shovel” could not be more different. The methodical, relentless, but leisurely pace gave that track a stolidity that could not be beaten. Like on “Baby Lions” the deep, multi-tracked harmonies of Mr. Andrews attained a forceful power that simply reeked of Shriekback.

shriekback - glory bumps2xLPAThe last track was something different. “Queen’s Beast” was simply the best album closer that Nick Cave never wrote. In fact, hearing Barry Andrews sing the fatalistic [but show stopping] ballad simply sounds wrong. My mind kept on substituting Cave’s sepulchral tones. The violin made a final appearance here as the theatricality of the song ramped up throughout its duration. It is another example of Andrews trying on another artists’ clothes at this experimental juncture in the reactivated life of Shriekback. The Waits number was good, but this really is something that needed to get a proper airing. That it did four years later as a bonus track on the 2xLP “Glory Bumps [Rapture Ready Endtime Advent Calendar]” edition of 2007. That is an album I now need in its CD and LP format.

As Andrews clearly stated in the liner notes to this reissue, by 2001, he had gone back to college and taken a degree in metalwork and he had made furniture instead of music following the apparent dissolution of Shriekback. It was a strictly for decoration piano in his girlfriends’ flat that lured him back into being a musician, and these tentative recordings, done on the cheap but with the production of longtime cohort Ian Caple, were a foothold for the Shriekback brand to begin shambling forth into the 21st century.

I was very pleased that they saw to reissue this one as it’s impossibly scarce, but can now be ordered [while supplies last] at the helpful shriekback.com web store. The resulting edition is lacking only in that, for the first time since they went online with a store, it’s a CD-R they’re selling. Well packaged and even silk-screened, but a CD-R none the less, so if you buy, be certain to back it up somewhere and don’t leave it in a hot car!

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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