This is a really good album. I wish I could stop there and have done with it but my editor doesn’t appreciate six word reviews. I like pithy, but … Shield Your Eyes are a hugely talented band. Not just in the conventional sense (ie: able to play their instruments) but Stef the singer / guitarist writes a pretty mean tune too. Imagine a collision between math, screamo and blues with pop sensibilities … no I can’t do that either but that’s what makes this band so refreshing, they’re created a sound that is (as far as I know) virtually unique.
Stef (the singer/guitarist) has a fascinating voice. Described as ugly/beautiful in the label press release, I find myself agreeing. At time it is almost comical how cracked and off-key he becomes but it is always a central part of every song and is always an asset. His trademark guitar sound is present throughout and works in much the same way as his voice, a combination of chaos and control that makes their music so exciting. Henri (the drummer) is a source of constant amazement. In a world where you have drummers like Chris Pennie and Brian Chippendale, to still find someone’s drumming amazing is a pleasure. He injects a (dare I say it) avant edge to the band, with his furious and complicated drum lines, but he is not set on one mode and he is able to blend into the background on some of the slower and gentler songs. What I am trying to say is… ‘nuff respec’.
They have recently lost their original bassist but he did play on this record and while I struggle sometimes to locate the bass on both this record and the old one, in some ways that is the mark of a job well done. The drums and bass work so well together in providing a platform for Stef’s vocals and guitar, that it is hard to pay attention to the other things going on, even if they are pretty damn good.
The album is not a huge leap from the debut “Shield Your Eyes” in terms of sound, but the songwriting has come on hugely. Out go the experimental noisy bits and the band just get on with playing the songs in a semi-straightforward fashion. Apparently, the band recorded this in three days and that spontaneity has paid huge dividends on the album. There are so many songs on this album that deserve individual attention but that would make me feel like I was doing down the songs I didn’t mention but “Sergeant Major Lonely and Queen Bee Sadness” and “Oranges” are particularly noteworthy for their bitter-sweet melody. “Ultra Soul” is the band in noisy and contentious mode. “Torn Apart On Details” is almost balladic and is the song that you could play to trick your Mum into listening to them. It is also a great showcase of Stefs voice and guitar skills. “Limerick” is more like some of the tunes on the first album, hectic and fidgety. “Time On You” is a neat little song that contains some of the most charismatic vocal work. “Bad Tooth Warehouse Boogie” is probably my favourite song on the album, a sort of wonky blues boogie that has a brilliant and incendiary middle section that forces you to pay attention to it because it’s having so much fun. “Mort aux Ours” is another balladic little thing and a bit of an oddity as its just a fairly straight voice and acoustic number, but very soulful and sweet. Closing song “Sandy” is a bit of an epic and I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. This band should be a raging success. If they’re not coining it in in the next five years then I’m going to chop off my ears and replace them with something more useful, like some handles or lamps or something.