Shrag – Canines – album review

Shrag – Canines (Fortuna POP!)
CD / DL / LP
Available from 2 July 2012

The third album from Shrag sees them put some meat on the bones of indiepop turning up the volume on sharp beats and growling guitars paired with edgy and strong songwriting.

Straining hard at the leash of indiepop, knuckles bloody from the playing and teeth bared for some up front tunes Shrag’s third album, Canines, has them hit their stride. Their sound is knocked about on this record, black and blue from the blows of scuzzy growling guitar then soothed with crescendos of keys.

It’s a fine record; twee vocal lines balanced by accomplished songwriting and – sometimes discordant, sometimes melodic – musical flourishes.

The male/female call-and-response vocal has a punky yet dark feel adding grit to the modern romantic tales told in the words. There’s a grunge undertone, a slithering riff spiralling out from the album’s shadows. Here too is ’90s indie – a hint of Lush in the lilt of the lyrics, a touch of Bis in the shouts and sounds that urge you to get up and dance.

It’s a mature offering that hasn’t lost a sense of abandon and fun. This record knows the weight of a thing but also how to let it fall from your shoulders now and then.

Helen (King, vocals and keys) describes the album:

“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.”

Bob (Brown, guitar and vocals) picks up the record’s tale:

“I wanted to make an album that was, musically, a bit deranged. Too many albums start the same, end the same and have the same sounding stuff in between.

“Why not make an album that starts like Metal Machine Music and ends like Wichita Lineman?”

He adds:

“And it needed a glam rock stomper somewhere in between. That was the only other stipulation. I’m from Wolverhampton. It seemed like the right thing to do.”

There is certainly a variety in the tunes collected here. From the sweat-drenched lo-fi punk pop of Show Us Your Canines to the sweet maudlin refrain of album closer Jane with Dumbbells.

Shrag, along with a few other bands such as Evans the Death and Joanna Gruesome, have added meat to the bones of indiepop. Taking the DIY ethic they’ve slammed together indiepop’s fey innocence with the visceral attitude and volume of punk rock.

Well worth a listen if you like your pop with a little less jangle and a little more roar.

All words by Sarah Lay. You can read more from Sarah on LTW here or follow her on Twitter.

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Sarah is a former editor of Louder Than War and a freelance music writer for numerous other publications online and in print. Co-owner of Reckless Yes Records she has put out music by LIINES, Pet Crow and lots of other awesome bands as well as put on shows by bands including Bivouac, Mark Morriss, Desperate Journalist and Dream Nails. She's an author, user experience designer and digital content strategist, as well as an occasional broadcaster. Sarah is a compulsive collector of coloured vinyl, a believer in the boogie and is in love with possibilities.


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