- Article by: Krystal Wallace
- Posted: 07/22/2012
Any time a British import is up for review I secretly hope it will be the time I get to drop “twee,” (British slang for obnoxiously cute), in a sentence. Indie-pop five-piece Shrag seems to fit the bill, but even with pint-sized Helen King’s infectiously cartoonish vocals and Bob Brown’s quivering tenor, their recent release Canines (7/9/12, Fortuna POP!) is all but void of the sugary pop residue that would allow such a description. Part lo-fi, part B-52s bravado, this Brighton boy-girl pairing sings and shouts quintoxic lyrics between thumping bass and rhythmic guitars, channeling the same high energy that made Life! Death! Prizes! such a success.
The album begins with the percussion heavy “Tears of a Landlord," where the band laments about the oft forgotten struggle of renting arrangements over dueling electric guitars. “Show Us Your Canines” is an animalistic close cousin of the equally catchy “Love Shack” by the aforementioned '80s sensations, and will surely be the stand out hit. This same vocal volley of near falsetto and tenor can be heard on “Tendons in the Night,” a lyrically impressive tale of an OCD gymnast. When the dudes step back and let the girls rock out in “You’re the Shout,” one can almost hear the ghosts of '90s riot grrls, The Raincoats.
Canines successfully balances lighthearted, radio-ready tracks with the more risky harmonic blends found in “Chasing Consummations” and “Flinching at Forever.” It’s on these tracks that the group’s dynamic can be felt most, as their vocals compliment each other in a way that makes one forget there are five people singing in one contained track.
If this album were a heroin binge, the closing track, “Jane With Dumbbells” would be a fitting comedown. In this surprisingly touching, almost-ballad, King sings softly about “Toxic mornings, the saccharine days / And you don’t want rescued, the end is OK / And you’re at your best with someone to save.” While there is still a basement-punk DIY feel, there is no disguising the fact that Canines has been polished in the same way it takes an hour to achieve the desired just-rolled-out-of-bed look. That kind of effort takes time and talent.