Shriekback – Why Anything? Why This? (Album Review)

Shriekback – Why Anything? Why This? (Album Review)

The decade is already drawing to a close and yet the stream of new albums from both veterans and contemporary purveyors of different genres of music keeps on overflowing to the delight of enthusiasts of these genres. In the New Wave/Post-Punk/Indie Rock scenes alone, collectors and followers have seen new releases by the likes of Skids (Burning Cities), Franz Ferdinand (Always Ascending), Morrissey (Low in High School), Simple Minds (Walk Between Worlds), Breeders (All Nerve), Belly (Dove), Ash (Islands), and Damned (Evil Spirits). Now, another beloved old-timer joins the new-music crusade—Shriekback is back! Well, not really, because the English band’s recently released album is, in fact, its third for the current decade alone – its 13th oeuvre overall!

Formed in 1981, in Kentish Town, London, England, Shriekback shot to popularity in the mid-’80s during the peak of New Wave music via its ubiquitous, infectious, and dancefloor-favorite hit single “Nemesis.” To date, the band—currently consisting of Barry Andrews (keyboards/synthesizers/vocals), Carl Marsh (guitars/vocals), and Martyn Barker (drums)—has 13 full-lengths under its name: from 1983’s Care; the triumvirate of ’80s-released chart-topping albums, 1985’s Oil & Gold, 1986’s Big Night Music, and 1988’s Go Bang!; to the latest offering, Why Anything? Why This?

Released on May 25, 2018, Why Anything? Why This? is a throwback to Shriekback’s early ’80s Post-Punk/Psychobilly/Gothic roots, but, at the same time, a trudge into heavier grounds. It opens with the rather grungy grind and pounding beats of “Shovelheads,” which sort of symbolizes the band’s confident return to activity. The same imposing sound carries on with the mid-tempo Psychobilly stomp and buzz of “And the Rain,” which pours off ominous drizzles of The Cramps (“Goo Goo Muck”), The Cult (“Spiritwalker”), and Big Black (“Fists of Love”). The galloping groove continues with the jazzy, filmic “Catmandu” and ambient and subtly Gothic “Such, Such Are the Joys.” Then, the ensuing “Wriggle & Drone” sways in the same undulating Worldbeat rhythm.

“The Painter Paints” is certainly a mid-album highlight – progressive, experimental, genre-defying; a standout with its marimba and piano flourishes and word-spoken stanzas. Pulsating next in a similar heartbeat, yet slower in pace, is “Useless Treasure,” which exudes a lava-lamp conjuring Trip-Hop sensibility. Then there is the belly-dance swagger of the Industrial/Tribal excursion of “Church of the Louder Light” and the Alternative Dance, chainsaw guitar–glazed “Sons of Dirt,” which may remind the initiated of ’90s purveyors of the genre, such as Happy Mondays (“Kinky Afro”), Jesus Jones (“Trust Me”), Soup Dragons (“Mindless”), EMF (“Unbelievable”), and Pop Will Eat Itself (“Karmadrome”). Finally, Shriekback wrap up their latest album with the dramatic, almost dirge march of “37.”

Certainly still in their well-oiled and golden glamor, Shriekback deliver a set of new, compelling tracks; a worthy addition to the their rich discography. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Why Anything? Why This? 4 out of 5 stars.

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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