Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Shrag - Life! Death! Prizes! (WIAIWYA)

There needs to be a place for everything in my deeply compartmentalised world, and I've no idea any more where to put Shrag. With their new album, 'Life! Death! Prizes!" they've confused me no end.

When we saw them at Indietracks a couple of years ago they thrilled the pants off me. They reminded me of seeing Huggy Bear at the Narrowboat in Nottingham all those years ago. They reminded me of the stunning rush of excitement that I used to get from seeing Prolapse all over the country. And most of all they reminded me that great music doesn't have to be hairbands and glockenspiels all the time.

But they're not an indiepop band - far from it. Not that it matters, of course. Still, I can't help feeling that they're turning into the new Long Blondes. Not that that matters, either, of course. But anyone who went to see those last few Long Blondes gigs will know what an unedifying experience that was.


'Life! Death! Prizes!' is as good an art pop album as there's been for a decade. More memories: it reminds me of that Ikara Colt album that was so badly ignored at the beginning of the last decade. It also gives out more than a lot of the more generic indiepop bands do nowadays. It's thoughtful and it's got soul. It's also inventive and it's got perhaps the best single of the year in 'Rabbit Kids'. It's a tricky bugger, for sure.

But it's perhaps on its slower, more atmospheric tracks when it really hits the spot for me. 'Faux When We go Courting''s slightly sinister playground tune might be the best example this (not that it's a flippin' ballad, you understand - just more understated), especially with it's "And deepest in the darkest of June/I dissolved in your room", it's got a killer hook.

'More Than Mornings' brings back the successful formula 'Forty-five 45s' from a few years ago, and is perhaps the album's most affecting track. It's pretty genuinely sad! As is 'Coda', the last track here, on which Helen and Bob show off half-decent-voices-ta-very-much.

And at the end though, it's down to you, innit? Can you bring yourself to fight your way through the crowd of hipsters to continue to hold Shrag to your heart? Me? I'm holding on tight for now.

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