Post-punk has always been a genre shrouded in mystery and tends to stray into a raw version of atmospheric post-rock. I have never had much enjoyment from the post-punk genre as it tends to spawn bands that are more concerned with maintaining some “cool” hipster image instead of producing what should be an angsty version of punk while maintaining its thundering upbeat nature. The Shackeltons have restored my faith in post-punk with their first release in six years (the last one being their self-titled album in 2008). The album received a lot of praise and gained them a dedicated fan-base. In 2010, their lead singer and principal songwriter Mark Redding took time off after his mother passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. In 2011, he returned to follow his passion for music. Thus, The Shackeltons’ Records was born. Redding worked on it independently before being signed to Think Loud Entertainment.
After The Shackeltons dropped their self-titled album, they spent a lot of time on the road touring and ended up laying support for Cage the Elephant, another band that delivers raw hard-hitting post-punk without any fancy gimmicks and shiny bells attached to it. One of the things to note is how similar The Shackeltons sound to CTE. Redding sings in the same angsty nasal tone as Matt Shultz. The entire sound is razor sharp with guitar riffs that create a wall of soaring melody that masks a sense of complete breakdown. The band oozes with angst that morphs into an upbeat wall of sound that bleeds emotion and riffs that listeners can easily dance to.
The song “Feet” demonstrates this very well. It begins with jangling guitar riffs that morph into angsty and distorted guitars and eventually culminate into a massive wall of sound. Redding’s angsty vocals punch out of this wall of distortion to deliver lyrics like “Are you there in the night?” This wall of sounds eventually results in complete breakdown as the song loses control and starts to careen all over the place. If this was any other genre, I’d write the song off – yet it is post-punk, so one expects the songs to be all over the place and sound like the musical equivalent of an ADHD child.
That is the general theme of the album: to build it up towards the point of complete breakdown and then maintain a sense of suspense until all hell breaks loose. Tracks like “The Ache” and “Mum” are prime examples of this. Both songs display Redding’s pain of watching his mother lose the battle to cancer BUT they also ooze with the love he clearly had for her. “Mum” even has this grungy Nirvana-sounding guitar riff to it.
Other tracks on the record maintain a grittier melodic sound. Songs like “Records”, “Lights” and “Kindest Words” display a more melodic and softer side of the band. They aren’t as vibrant and upbeat as other tracks yet they deliver an honest sense of emotion while maintaining that post-punk strangeness.
One detriment to Records, however, is the song “Black Mary” which is close to eight minutes long. Any song that is eight minutes long needs to either hook you from the beginning or have a sense of progression and change to it. “Black Mary” does neither. It maintains the same un-exciting sound that after three minutes becomes a fuzz of background noise as you get distracted by other things. Redding’s vocal go from angsty to whiny and a wall of sharp distorted guitar riffs descends into a haze of sound.
Overall, Records impressed me. Post-punk doesn’t usually excite me but this piqued my interest. The album takes a while to grow on you, but eventually the angsty vocals grow on you and the razor sharp guitar riffs develop into riffs that get you into a dancing mood. The album oozes angst from every corner yet it maintains an upbeat quality to it. A solid effort that redeems post-punk in my eyes.