Record Review: Shriekback – “Nemesis” UK 2×12″

shriekback nemesis 2x12" cover art
Arista ‎| UK | 2×12″ | 1985 | SHRK 123

Shriekback: Nemesis – UK – 2×12″ [1985]

  1. Nemesis [ext. ver.] 5:49
  2. Suck [live @ Hatfield Poly]
  3. Mothloop [live # Hatfield Poly]
  4. Feelers [live @ Hatfield Poly]

The mid eighties was not the kindest time for most of my favorite musicians. When the formerly mighty David Bowie was flailing pathetically, and even his progeny like Ultravox were on the downslide into irrelevancy, the outlook was not good. In 1985 Live Aid would happen and be there to prop up the Rock Hegemony for another return to the trough of pop, with the losers being any bands still attempting some measure of adventure and the apparently shrinking audience for such hi-jinx.

Fortunately, all was not hopelessly adrift on a sea of mediocrity. Shriekback had manifested a few years earlier and it can be argued that they hit the rare target of commercial and artistic success simultaneously with their third [or fourth, depending on how you count] album “Oil + Gold.” The first single from the disc was a song that actually managed to get some club play in the US and made a dent in the UK top 100 as well. Such modest success may well be the band’s commercial peak, but there’s no shame in having any measure of success with a single that’s this much unbridled fun.

The track began with a spartan Linn drum beat and samples of Brando’s big speech in “Apocalypse Now.” Kick in some backwards drum hits and dubbed out crunch chord guitar and isolated whipcrack percussion. I like the cheerful synth loop also isolated that suggests wah-wah guitar and ultimately acts like percussion in the track. Phased bass led into Barry Andrews’ vocal about 80 seconds in. The mix here was very much aired out from the more claustrophobic density of the single mix.

Priests and cannibals, prehistoric animals

No one move a muscle as the dead come home

Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis

Everybody happy as the dead come home


The chanted chorus hook of this song is one, once heard, is never forgotten. It emerged to flatten the listener with its intensity, but this mix featured a guitar chord slashing its way through the bludgeoning. I’ve always dug the spit octave vocals with a screechy falsetto jammed in there for good measure. The dubbed out mix added an expansive vibe to what had previously been a mix with an almost airless density.

The almost metallic guitar solo in the middle eight led into the fasletto “whoo hoo” backing vocals being singled out for emphasis. Then the return to the chorus was phased for a bit of psychedelia. The second stab at the chorus then only featured the shrill falsetto performance to hammer home the song’s intensity by isolating the various aspects of the mix in dubspace.

There was another film dialogue soundbite which I could not identify before the chorus circled back in a more normal fashion for the song to gallop at full rein into Valhalla as the chorals broke down and the guitars continued for a bit longer before putting the brakes on. Quite a difference to the usual mix.

The B-sides here were all from a show recorded at Hatfield Polytechnic in 1984. “Suck” found the band at their funky apex, sounding like James Brown if he had been fortunate to have a player like Bernie Worrell in his band. Speaking of which, I really loved the live “Feelers” where Mr. Andrews in his spoken intro paid fealty to the mighty Jupiter 8 polysynth he eloquently coaxes magic from on the extended workout, which blossoms like a lotus on the stage.

richard blade's flashback favorites vol 6 cover artFor fans of this single, all of its component parts have made it to the silver disc. The 2011 2xCD DLX RM of “Oil + Gold” has everything [as it should – though i don;t have a copy] and I have the mix on the great Richard Blade New Wave mix CD, “Flashback Favorites Vol. 6.” The live B-sides are all on the band-issued discs of “Live At Hatfield Polytechnic 1984” as issued separately in 2002 on CD-R and a real CD as disc two in the “Jam Science” DLX RM the band put out in 2014 [which is now a high two figures].\

There was a 2nd UK 12″ with the “Arch-Deviant Mix” that I only ever found out about in the Discogs era. I bought this 2×12″ at Murmur Records on release for the then nice price of $5.95; the going rate for import 12″ singles in 1985. I have never seen a copy of the second 12″, but in the Post-Frankie environment of 1985 I suppose the alternate 12″ was to be expected. It felt great at the time to have a band obviously firing at full capacity when so many others were wilting in the conservatism of the era. One cannot make such claims about “Nemesis.” Based as it was on the “Nemesis The Warlock” UK comic book by Pat Mills and Brendan McCarthy” the single crackled with garish pulp imagery and enlivened any club floors lucky enough to have it reverberating in their sound systems.


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7 Responses to Record Review: Shriekback – “Nemesis” UK 2×12″

  1. dhrichards says:

    We used to dance to this at frat parties in college. Oil & Gold and Big Night Music are classic albums imho.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      dhrichards – Hard to imagine music as bizarre and idiosyncratic as this as “frat rock!” But there we are. Those two albums did show evidence of Shriekback plateauing while others were in free fall but they would get their comeuppance a few years later than the pack in 1988.


      • dhrichards says:

        My college was full of NYC club kids, so I guess there was spill over. Funny story- when “Please” came out by the PS Boys, I was playing some girl (who was from NYC) “Opportunities” – a brand new track to me. She rolled her eyes and said, “I am soooo tired of this song, it was everywhere last year.” College was an education for me.


  2. Christopher Merritt says:

    Nothing much to add other than I love how deep you get on reviewing this! This is the 12″ that got me into Shriekback in the 80s. I remember showing that cover to my Marine Biology teacher in HS, and him pointing out that the fish on the cover was probably only about an inch long…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. slur says:

    The live version of ‘Feelers’ is the true gem here imho, it shows fully the potential and power this lineup of Shriekback had. Sadly there is no studio version equalling this, also all versions are quite good. I had high hopes for the remix on ‘Aberrations 81-84’ but found this one not remarkable when I finally got it (and too short btw).
    Another question I never got solved properly was why there was never a real extended remix of ‘My Spine’, this track also called for it but remained unheard.
    Back to ‘Nemesis’, yes a great single showcasing Shriekback in full swing – hard to imagine today seeing a major releasing something with lyrics like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      slur – “Feelers” was indeed quite a gem live, which was why this recording seemed to be fairly wide spread. Actually, with the PMRC active in America in that same time period, it’s a miracle that “Nemesis” even managed to get a US single release.

      Liked by 1 person

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