June 11, 2018 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.