ALBUM REVIEW: Shrag – Canines

Written for DIY

If we had to describe the genre of music Shrag made, we would call it “dance-indie-sexy-funny-pop-music”. If we had to compare Shrag to a handful of other bands, it would be a mix of the best British pop of from 1989-2005 mixed with equal parts post-punk. If we had to awkwardly insert Shrag into the lyrics of a Queen song it would go: “Shrag! Aa-aa! Saviours of indie-pop!”

Now part of the Fortuna Pop! lineage along with the likes of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Allo Darlin – but with more in common with the better (less patriotic) side of Britpop, Pulp pre-‘Different Class’ and the like – the band have dealt with that DSA (difficult second album) and come out with fists flying and feet stomping. ‘Canines’ is a taut, exhilarating, if a little short, tour-de-force.

Shrag have gotten to that exciting stage of being a band where they don’t sound like quite so much like a mish-mash of their favourite bands; they simply sound like Shrag. The Pulp comparison was for your benefit, readers, and while it’s not unfounded, the danceability and occasional flashes of sexual perversion (most explicit on ‘Devastating Bones’, a thunderous clatter of a ditty with the refrain “I think you might need those knees for kneeling”) are entirely the band’s own.

The songs swerve through the sexy to the sublime, fronted by Helen King’s bratty vocals, and travelling via some riot grrl-esque speed and noise. But, like, if riot grrl was as interested in writing hooks as it was espousing the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe. The “sublime” comes in the form of closing track ‘Jane With Dumbbells’ (they know how to sneak a little emotional gut punch in at the end of their LPs; ‘Hopelessly Wasted’ from their debut is a fantastic little gem of a bitter sweet love song) where King’s vocals are far less affected, far more understated, and fade in and out of an – can we say? – epic ballad backing. Epic in the sense of ‘Battery In Your Leg’ as opposed to Game of Thrones.

But, as often in life, there are exceptions. The stand-out track on the album, ‘On The Spines Of Old Cathedrals’, is the best pop song New Order haven’t written in years, speedy Stephen Morris drums and low-slung Hooky bass included.

As King herself puts it: “It’s a pop record about bones and skin and cities and compulsions and love and confusion. It’s a bit strange, but you can dance to some of it, and it makes a particular kind of sense to us, which feels very exciting.” It does to us  too.

7/10

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