Tuesday 25 September 2012

Shacklock Meth Party - This

Album review by KevW

"An album of gory drug pop" is what it says. An album of gory drug pop is exactly what we get, so as press releases go, New Zealand's Shacklock Meth Party have hit the nail bang on the head. But have they nailed the music? Gory drug pop can be spectacularly, beautifully messy, but it can also be pointless, lazy and muddy. What Rhett Copeland and his merry band of drone merchants have laid down here sure is messy, it's also surprisingly varied and on the odd occasion even sparkly and light. 'Frequencies Of A Half Man' is the kind of drugged-up dirge that The Dandy Warhols used to make, but strip away the gloomy vocal and it twinkles and twangs like some kind of psychedelic country and western movie soundtrack filtered through The Brian Jonestown Massacre's production system. The lyrics are indecipherable which gives them a menacing, gory feel, the groaning and distorted sounds feel like they come from some otherworldly dimension which can only be reached through, shall we say, medication. The big surprise is the 'pop' element.

It gets poppier too. 'Bureau de Change' is spangly blissed-out dreampop, the difference being that where many would put some ethereal vocals and take us up in the clouds, the vocals here are again little more than a pained mumble in the background. And if you're wondering, this is a very good thing. The drugs in question are unlikely to be those you'd find in Christchurch's club scene, this is more like scouring the city's dark underbelly. But it's one hell of an uplifting song nonetheless and proves that these guys can do guitar-pop with the best of them. 'Like A Murder' brings the tone crashing back down again, its truncated, repetitive rumble sounds like The Cramps played in (very) slow motion. This seam of darkness runs right through 'This' and is what binds everything together. From the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on a bad trip opener 'This Is My Shit, Gwen' (apparently the Gwen in question in Stefani) to the almost comatose final bars of 'Burnout Lake (Brian Feary's 115th Nightmare/Dream)' it's there.

The difference between a bad drone-rock record and a good one is down to the use of the effects and the management of sludge. Sludge (sorry if that's too technical a term) can make or break a record. A muddy bottom-end indicates bad production and is likely to smother the sound and ruin it. But laying down a murky template that allows other sounds to shine through can be mesmerising. The aforementioned 'Bureau de Change' and 'Soul Acetone' are great examples of how it should be done and really suggest that Shacklock Meth Party deserve to be much better known in these circles. 'Dialtone Eyes' is like Wooden Shjips' grubby younger brother and the brilliantly titled 'Linkin Park, Kill Some Terrorists For Me' is a hallucinatory stroll through an imaginary world that you'd probably not want to visit in real life. But it's life that makes 'This' a terrific record, there's a lot going on here and this isn't directionless murmuring, these songs are teaming with life and light as well as being as black and gloomy as the artwork would suggest. 'This' is gory drug pop done to perfection.

Shacklock Meth Party's website

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