Weekly Capsule Reviews: 28/05/2017


This week: Shookrah, Animal Collective (2), Blondie, Fixity, Forest Swords

Older releases/Classics: PJ Harvey (2), Fixity

Shookrah: Clichés (EP) [self-released, 19/05/2017]

An EP that panders to the title, yes, but one that addresses “issues” not vocalised too often in the sagacity of inoffensive neo-soul (née soul). Like gerascophobia—we’ve heard it always in the disco soirée but rarely in the words. It’s all about having a good time, never making the best use of your time before your time is up. Here, they somehow pinpoint how to rectify that. “Papa was a nomad/And mamma she’s a gypsy, too” lead gal Senita Appiakorang declares with the vivacity and purity of her non-Irish background. Obvious, obviously bright, and everything we’ve heard before with a hint of newfound, “philosophical” lexicon. That doesn’t mean it won’t work here in Cork… for now. (7/10)

Animal Collective: The Painters (EP) [Domino, 17/02/2017]

Back to their bouncy exterior and soft interior. A simple, four-track EP with a classy little cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Jimmy Mack”. (6/10)

Blondie: Pollinator [BMG/Infectious, 05/05/2017]

Chalk it down as a return to form. Now the seventy-something, Debbie Harry revives her youth with a message teeming with profundity: “Human beings are stupid things, when we’re young”. Notice the “we’re”, not “they’re”. A self-reflective nod to past and present transgressions. (6/10)

Fixity: FIXITY 3 [self-released, 22/05/2017]

You can be an alt-hipster all you want and spout that this lot is the most intriguing thing sonically since jazz was actually a thing. I can buy that a bit more (I’m lying) with this latest piece of pretentiously-“tight” “improv” forgoing the improv. (6/10)


Forest Swords: Compassion [Dense Truth/Ninja Tune, 05/05/2017]

A frustrating release from Matthew Barnes. One step forward, [at least] three steps back. (6/10)

Animal Collective: Meeting of the Waters (EP) [Domino, 22/04/2017]

I listened to the sloppy haze of this before February’s The Painters. And when I was hoping for a change in direction, to my horror, this cropped up—more concise, more mellow, and possessing psychedelic serenity more so than they’ve been recently used to. But can we go back to before? Yeah, really. (5/10)

Older releases/Classics

PJ Harvey: Dry [Too Pure, 30/03/1992]

The fact she contemplated it being her last record before she even began explains why her music feels like she’s squeezing your tacks and not letting go—she’d outrock anyone. Polly wants a man but won’t be overawed by the masculine paradigm she’s inhabiting. But in her cautious androgyny she’d love to be spoken for—”Come on, boys, let’s push it hard/Bump down, push your motor car”, “Oh, my lover/Why don’t you just say my name?” There’s ambiguity—not sexual ambiguity but relationship ambiguity wherein she longs for the man, the woman, the carer, the giver; then wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Her womanly masculinity is alluringly ambiguous alongside the references of dresses and “shiny things”. But whatever the context may be in relation to these references, it still doesn’t in any way contradict her message of being the stubbornly-independent yet yearning-for-companionship twenty-something. (8/10)

PJ Harvey: Rid of Me [Island, 04/05/1993]

When I first heard this record I originally thought Nirvana—lo and behold, producer Steve Albini, Cobain’s future swansong regisseur. Harvey loves integrating the female into all this but her macho “I-won’t-let-a-man-dominate-me-but-I-want-to-be-dominated” persona leaves you pondering over what she’s looking for. Probably someone who can stand up to her merciless sexual desires, whether she’s taking it or giving it: “Lick my legs, I’m on fire!”, “Sweet babe, let me stroke it”, “I’m sucking ’til I’m white”. All told, this is a record that never quite did it for me. Driven off acquiescing-to-the-man feminism and a less-than-semi-autobiography, whatever she had in mind was ravaged by the murky production, particularly the first half. She potentially had more to say than the engineering would allow. But the subject matter is so hardcore-pornographic, Albini’s intervention may be a godsend. Maybe… (7/10)

Fixity: The Things in the Room [Penske, 02/12/2016]

There’s improv and then there’s improv. And this is improv. The guitar managed to stay in key through all its dithering staccato, even when it wasn’t trying to. The rest… (5/10)


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