Wednesday 12 January 2011

Shipping The News Never Gets Old

A mainstay of Touch & Go Records (well, its sublabel Quarterstick Records), Louisville post-rock sluggers Shipping News released One Less Heartless To Fear, their first album in five years, for Noise Pollution Records (AfricAntApe and Ruminance will distribute it in Europe) mid November last year. Im a latecomer to Shipping News, never having made the jump from the band's 90s predecessor Rodan. But when I heard 2003's Three-Four only last year, I was hooked. I only managed to pick this one up last week.

So how does the new LP sound? Having been recorded live in two very different locales (Skull Alley in Louisville, KY and the O-Nest in Tokyo, Japan), we can expect more sprawling and devastating compositions... Er, no. Although the sense of urgency, angst and unease runs through One Less Heartless To Fear like a thick ribbon of coal underneath the surface, its the tightly coiled songs themselves that prove to be the biggest change since the band's hiatus. Songs like 'This Is Not An Exit' and 'The Delicate', utilising sound more like Shellac or Gang of Four than they do like their previous leanings into Slint territory, with a liberal dose of Fugazi thrown in for good measure. Indeed, it is the abrasive post-punk math overtures here that most impress, showing that nothing will slow down Shipping News' verve and drive (founding member Jason Noble has been battling cancer for some time). And even if there are some instrumental tracks ('Half A House'), they are reined in to under five minutes. Whats more, though there is some crowd adulation, its on the whole difficult to fathom this is a live album, so meticulously is it recorded and produced.

Shipping News then have forged out of the blocks here wielding much agression and anger - yet there is vim and vigour that enlightens. There is much life and energy left in the tanks. And just ponder on the bands that Shipping News rose from like a phoneix from the ashes - Rodan, The For Carnation, June of '44. And the fact that they named their band after E. Annie Proulx's brilliant book (one of my all time favourites, a definite top ten). This is a class act. Grab this - now. Then, if you havent already, collect their whole discography, plus those of the preceding acts. Its never too late.

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