JEALOUS OF SHIT AND SHINE
Stumpy, fat little fingers, worn raw. Nails bitten to the quick. Fag-ends in a cracked saucer. Cheese-wires for guitar strings.
The title says it all.
There's something bad-tempered & mean-spirited about some of this music; a tinny shrillness...sounds pixillate & crumble; noise evaporates, is broken down and made invisible by bit-crunch pressure...and if emotional narrative could be measured or graphed (or grappled with) in terms of frequency responses, then this hints at barely-restained hysteria, at brittle repression; spunk-stained jazz-mags stashed in a stinky sock-drawer.
Buried in amongst the anorexic, auto-asphyxiated riffs and self-harming drum-mulch, we see glimpses of another England, one so ugly and irritably dysfunctional that even Blur's cutely-reductive quirky Kinks-isms and condescendingly 'good-natured' mockney Madness tributes fail to plaster over the cracks. It's the choice of vocal samples and found-sound sources that make bits of this LP squirmishly uncomfortable, not the broken beats and blasts of filtered noise: at points it comes close to pinpointing the hidden symptoms of the true English Disease...the xenophobia, pettymindedness and abuse that blight the Brit mindset.
This is "Nil by Mouth", not fucking "Parklife." This is dog-track culture stripped of phoney art-school glamour and 'characters'; a small business torched for insurance purposes; a scaffolding-pole hurled thru a bookie's window; psychotic football casuals and fucked-up burn-outs that would Stanley-knife you for a fiver. This is the sound of the UK self-medicating on a diet of lager, temazepam and Ginsters pasties.
Interesting that Shit and Shine are so awesomely transcendental live. Here, they snarl and growl like a drug-dealer's pitbull, they lurch and stagger about; objects break or get smashed in fits of temper; voices spit abuse, moan and pick fights; everyone's charlied-up and on edge. Something's got to give.
Dubstep seemed to somehow musically articulate a sense of inner-city dread with its unnerving bass undertow and restless, percussive twitch, but I'm starting to wonder whether music like this might perhaps better document Britain's own bipolar inner tension, certainly where a certain type of middle-aged, white urban male is concerned. If Dubstep captures a certain mood, an urban atmosphere, then this feels like it might be more about personal consequences, social repercussions and self-denial; a delayed anxiety-reaction to Blairstrip One. They may be pulling down the old boozers and replacing the greasy caffs w/ wine-bars, but where are all the people going to go, all the ones that can't (or won't) cope w/ cultural acceleration & change...Blair's crusade to make us all middle-class is hitting hard-wired resistance in some quarters; some people have too much invested in The Old Ways to ever want to change, while some are just plain scared or pig-ignorant or ill or different; they just can't fucking deal with life's new little contradictions, ironies, pop-cultural obscenities...the mediascape we inhabit is fractal; it's too complex, too self-reflective...there's too much pressure, too many conflicting, cracked ad-images: which is me, for fucksake? I can't tell any more. All this obsession on image and life-style is leading to self-loathing in certain demographic sub-groups....it's all too fucking much for some people and steam is starting to leak through the cracks in the pavement. Shit and Shine are the hiss of the steam...they're the cracks in the pavement, the dog-shit, the muffled voices from an argument in the flat next door..."Who're you fucking looking at, twat?"
Craig, one half of Shit and Shine, is from Texas. But they've completely nailed the (ugh! hate the expression:) Englishness of it all. Symptoms of The English Fear: run-down garden centres, failing mid-80s mini-malls, faded tattoos on a ferret-faced hard man outside the Spar shop, abandoned weed-choked playgounds, damp rizlas and scorched kit-kat wrappers, old women volunteers working in charity shops, market-stalls selling familypaks of cheap bog-roll, a torn 2nd hand Paul Young album cover used for roaches, 13 year old girls in micro-skirts spitting at passing cars...
The frackkkktured beats and strangulated distorto-gtr meltdowns on display here won't be intense enuff for people who like Power Electronics; it's far too sloooow for those of you follow Breakcore and too, I dunno, sludgy for an old-fashioned Punk knees-up; it also lacks the Mainliner-esque full-barrelled sonic-overload of their sister-group Todd. Anyone who's explored the outer-limits of Alt.Rock or Electronic music to any degree will have heard stuff more outwardly challenging or experimental than this...buuuut: there's points here where the music almost stumbles by accident on some half-buried emotional truths and they don't make for easy or comfortable analysis. This may have started as a side-project or a bit of a dick-around, but it's starting to take on a life of its own. I used to describe this band as, uh: "imagine if The Butthole Surfers had gone to school in Ipswich"...but now I'm not so sure.
Half way thru the LP, when they kick off the 30 minute bludgeothon "Practising to be a Doctor" (a cover-version of an old Strangulated Beatoff's toon), it almost feels like a relief from what came before...playing a single unresolved riff for half an hour seems, paradoxically, to release the pressure. This is closer to the sound of their unstoppable multi-drum live line-up, but, in the break-down, taped voices bicker and squabble and niggle at each other until the crunching riff returns and harmony is strangely restored. If this is Motorik, then it's dragging a corpse in the road behind it. There's an element of Hawkwind about this track too: the (occasional) monotone android vocals reminding me a little of Nik Turner. If ya get a chance to check 'em live, then go for it: they sound great on gin. A recent-ish show in Germany featured 10 drummers w/ the group playing the same riff for two hours, then the PA blew up and filled the hall w/ smoke while the band played on...they smashed it at Sonar too ...I saw 'em w/ three drummers and it blew me blinkin' socks off...they're doing shows with the likes of Earth, Sunn O))), AMT, Lightning Bolt, etc and more than holding their own. Various Old People will no doubt also remind us that this isn't as good as, eg Loop, Spacemen 3, etc, but that's their problem.
I've loved 'em for, like, forever, but where they go next w/ all this could be v. interesting ...if they finally achieve some sort of heightened narrative/vocal focus w/ their recorded material (or maybe a reconciliation of the bicameral chasm that separates Live/Studio incarnations of group), then we might be seeing the beginnings of, urrrm (squirms in chair), a southern equivalent of The Fall...but certainly, if they don't falter or lose their nerve, then they have the capacity to be a very special band indeed.