Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Get The Shovels Out And DIG
I have been a big fan of San Francisco native Michael Beach for some time. He came floating into my sonic peripherals with his solo fare; firstly his A Horse 7" through Twin Lakes Records back in 2011, but most prominently when he released Golden Theft, one of my favourite albums of 2013. I even had the privilege of putting him on a show at the Beetle Bar in Brisbane back in November (with a stellar line-up of Soda Eaves, Tiny Migrants and Tape/Off – but due to torrential rain it was a poorly attended show, despite it being one of my favourite of the year also). He was joined with a backing band, bassist Adam Camilleri and drummer Peter Warden. But they aren’t really just a backing band – the trio form Shovels, and their debut LP (out through Homeless Records) is one of apocryphal dirges and imploding delights.
There are moments throughout Shovels where I felt I was listening to one of Australia’s truly underrated rock bands, Turnpike. Whilst nowhere near as intricately frenetic, there is an incessant gnarled tension throughout these tracks, such as opener 'MB Jacket' or 'Multiple Farrow', from the deathmarch basslines and cathartic drums to Beach’s impassioned howls and sharp guitar stabs and swathes. The monolithic ‘Clyde’ stands stark here, just over five minutes of drowning militaristic rancour; as Beach shouts ‘the leader of the FBI’ there is a nascent aura pervading, as if the anger is on the cusp of being superseded by impotent exasperation. But the muscularity remains, and therein lies one of the secret ingredients that so many bands forget – you can strut and bluster all you want, you can turn things up as loud as they will go, but if you don’t wield your strengths at the right time, with tempered aggression, with knowledge of when to strike and when to recede into the shadows, you are nothing but a cardboard cutout. Even the sparse, foreboding languidity of ‘Expire’ holds more strength in its aural tendrils than most bombastic offerings. There is nothing impotent about Shovels – contrary, this album digs mass graves for us all to gratefully slumber in, led by Pied Pipers of angularity.
Grab Shovels here – it’s a necessity.