Shriekback: Bowlahoola – UK – CD 
- Doo-Dah Room
- Baby Floods The Zone
- The Wolfman Whinesplains
- Brute fact View
- We All Lie Down In The Rover
The last Shriekback album, “1000 Books” was a bit pensive following the defiant extroversion of “Why Anything, Why This? ” and “Some Kinds of Light.” “Bowlahoola” comes practically a year on the dot from “1000 Books” but it’s a rare current example of Shriekback powered solely by the Barry Andrews battery; as Martyn Barker and Carl Marsh had were otherwise engaged when Andrews instigated sessions relatively hot on the heels of the last one. It’s best not to wast that inertia, so he moved on those songs which were bubbling up, and now the proof is in our hot little hands. Let’s dig in.
It began with a nondescript hum like a TV tuned to a blank channel that first got touched by a distant loop teetering precariously before the implacable funk of the song manifested. The thinness of the verse structure, with Andrews delivering his vocal snide and snotty, echoed the weedy loop until the chorus erupted with a brusque vitality along with the album’s secret weapons; the voices of Wendy + Sarah Partridge joining in to carry the chorus with Mr. Andrews aloft on a seeming cast of thousands. The way these ladies viciously bite the lyric “hog-tied and stupid in the Doo-Dah Room…all this insight is excruciating” strongly suggested you would not want to mess with them one whit!
Lyrically, this one really sprawled, though I can’t help but wonder if the “Doo-Dah” here was related to that of the Bonzo [Doo-Dah] Dog Band, where said term was a corruption of the famed “Dada” movement where the futility and degradations made possible by rationality were abandoned as a way through the morass of The Great War. The Bonzos had their own war to deal with, as every generation does. Meanwhile, the whipcrack beat drove this one as inexorably as a hortator on a slave galley.
The sudden appearance of “Baby Floods The Zone” on the heels of that last one caught me by surprise! The title being taken from the famous tactic of the bracingly repulsive Steve Bannon; the éminence merde of MAGA who’s managed to stage a largely successful assault on the former norms of society by simply using an unceasing torrent of meaningless data [Dada?] to overwhelm our abilities to parse what is actually going down.
What was going down in the song was a relentless tech throb of a rhythm track as this snarling, pulsing track expectorated a phlegm ball of spite and defiant dismay at the beast at the heart of it all. Personified here [and this was a hoot] as the ultimate destructive girlfriend. The eschatological vibe of the song was palpable. For the vigor with which it investigated the idea of simply “burning the mother down,” this was a song that could take its rightful place in a queue consisting solely of “Exterminating Angel” by The Creatures, only invested with the righteous moral rage found in the best Jarvis Cocker songs.
Best of all, its vitriol never forgot that it was a song from the pen of Barry Andrews, and thus was infused with his own brand of mordant wit like the howler in the middle of the verse below that never fails to stun me with its mixture of familiar Shriekback science tropes taking the high road on a lowdown metaphor that hit with the force of a sledgehammer to the gut, yet leaves me gawping in amazement every time I heard those words.
I could spend another day waxing eloquent on this one as there’s so much to unpack. I didn’t even get to mention the hardly gratuitous Q-Anon® references, but we’ve got more ground to cover before nightfall and I’m only two songs in on this one! Suffice to say this is my favorite song of the year. Perhaps decade. It’s a song that only Shriekback could have made, and it gleefully grinds its lyrical boot into the face of the malignancy that seeks to destroy us all.
“Churn” offered a step down from the levels of intensity we just were served by deceptively proffering a dryly intoned beatbox standing in for rim hits and some electric piano graced with a touch of synth bass as Mr. Andrews offered the first two verses on a haunting and intimate level before the expansive chorus exploded with the multitracked voices of the Partridge sisters and Andrews in a reasonable facsimile of Russian folksong. With the line “and we’re one sequin short of being fabulous” being what they call “a keeper.”
After this program of heretofore roiling intensity, it was time for one of the more light hearted Shrieksongs I’ve ever heard. “Ambergris” conjured a carefree seaside vibe on its modular Eurorack groove touched with the lightest of eBow lines gliding through the song like a seagull. Meanwhile, the Fender Rhodes piano and Hammond organ patches competed to see which could emit the most sunshine. But the forceful chorus belied the song’s air of joviality with its admonitions to muddle through, no matter how bad things may get. After all, ambergris [possibly] starts as a whale’s alimentary response to indigestible squid beaks and it is as close to fecal matter as it issues from the cetacean…and yet given the right conditions and time, it may end up in a bottle of the finest parfum. One never knows. What I do know was that Mr. Andrews’ synth solo in the middle eight was a stunning widescreen evocation of the finest possible trumpet solo this song could ever have. It was just breathtaking.
Next: …Werewolves Of Glastonbury