Hope in dissonance

The skinny: Shipping News SMASH!!

The review proper: Louisville’s quartet is angry and will tap your shoulder to let you know this.

The uncertainties in life sometimes really can do you in, but when an unknown becomes a factor, what do you? In the case of Shipping News, you release a live album full of energy, maybe releasing a lot of pent-up anger. It shows. Gone is a lot of what made them, but life changes, so why can’t they?

There’s two old songs, but the rest is all new stuff, being roadtested with audiences from Louisville and Tokyo (!), all recorded in digital. The audience’s reaction sometimes takes you out of the experience (!) but it’s a very minor nitpick (aren’t they all?).

Gone is most of the atmospheric bits and now the mood is faster, but still veering to the curb from time to time to take a look at the chaos around. There are instrumental breakdowns, one of the calling cards of Shipping News, but they are anything but calm.

Jeff Mueller and Jason Noble are not even singing, they’re letting you know they are angry about something and won’t shy from letting you know. The sheer aggressiveness of ‘This is not an exit’ (American Psycho reference, hopefully?) is brilliant and if ‘Antebellum’ didn’t made enough of a racket for your attention (ah, that bass), maybe this one will, with its long instrumental passages (oh, those 2 last minutes of the song – how I love them).

Todd Cook’s bass is a real deal maker for me. Can’t stop listening to the stuff he’s flexing around in One less heartless to fear, especially during the “Thank God it’s Thursday” bit. Jeff Mueller and Jason Noble are no laughing matter either: they play each other, building (and then demolishing) what the other is doing. Kyle Crabtree keeps them in their toes so they have no time to breathe.

‘(Morays or) Demon’ is a pretty cool gem. It builds and builds, descending into chaos and shouts. It’s the preparation you need before going to the heavy one-two combo in the album: ‘7s’, which is brimming with an unnerving atmosphere (again, Cook’s bass is just perfect) and ‘The delicate’, a deceitful song with a constant, drilling rhythm. I frankly can’t follow the lyrics on this one, but sounds like steam is being blown off.

Speaking of deceits, I previously stated that there were no slower songs in One less heartless to fear. Well, there’s two songs to slow down to. Slightly. ‘Axons and dendrites’ is the soundtrack to a tirade. The recording does let down the song a bit, but still a good one. ‘Half a house’ is an instrumental one, very atmospheric, which rises and falls for your listening pleasure.

Closing One less heartless to fear are ‘Bad Eve’ (rocking) and ‘Do you remember the avenues?’ (brutal). A great way to close a very energetic album that sports one serious collection of great basslines, carefully guarded by two guitars and a drumkit ready to do some headbanging.

With the songs being recorded in digital in two very different places (Louisville and Tokyo – whoa!), you still get a consistency from Shipping News in one very blunt, decisive album called One less heartless to fear. Their post-rock and math-rock skills are still present, but a punky (and sometimes slightly trashy – see ‘The Delicate’) rhythm makes it a very fast, mercurial experience.


One less heartless to fear is out now on Karate Body and Noise Pollution


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About the author: still laughing at the “Jason Noble plays electric guitar and vocalizes on the rest except “Half A House”. He labors under the false belief that this is jazz” bit in their bandcamp.

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