(Noise Pollution/Karate Body)
For its first album in five years, Shipping News turns back
to its earliest Louisville
roots – read Slint and Rodan – and delivers a more aggressive outing in line
with early-days releases from its nascence 15 years ago. Of course, members
from those bands have played in Shipping News for years, so the math-rock tempo
shifts and sludgy bottom end are in their DNA.
And recording these seven new songs – plus two from 2005’s Flies the Fields – live at an all-ages
hometown venue and a Tokyo
gig has also dialed up the tension. And tense these songs certainly are,
narratives filled with dystopian future-is-now-scapes of cornea scans,
surveillance satellites and menacing helicopters hovering overhead while the
music pummels you into delightful submission.
Opener “Antebellum” is an ode to Bush II’s Orwellian reign
built on thrumming bass, coruscating guitars and frog-march percussion that
propel the narrative – “The first thing on our action list/Is to tour the
debris/We can take our helicopters/We can take the limousine” – into paranoid
police state-territory, and the sunny fare never lets up. It’s present in the
feedback-drenched black humor of “This Is Not An Exit” (“We’ve got cornea
scans/Email scams/Root Beer Tuesday/Hot Fudge Thursday/Thank God it’s
Thursday”) and the claustrophobic press-rolls that fuel the righteous religious
indignation of “7s” (“Our God, he don’t make mistakes”); it’s also there in the
aggro-punk rush of LP highlight “The Delicate” and the jitters-inducing
sing-speak of Animal Farm allegory “Bad
Eve” (“All us brown rice jack rabbits and lab rats, fattened up/Spliced into
big-box telemarkets and hybrid pyramid schemes”).
Our post-apocalyptic destiny reveals itself in toto with the jackhammer tempo and
chest-caving percussion of the finale, “Do You Remember the Avenues,” where
lichen and treadleweeds have overrun L trains, fax machines and building
lobbies, and the only trace of humanity is its ghost-like silence. Shipping
News, like its forebears, doesn’t traffic in pop formulas or polite liberal
sloganeering – and sometimes that’s exactly what’s called for.
DOWNLOAD: “Antebellum” “The Delicate” BY JOHN SCHACHT