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Saturday, 8 February 2014

Shrag – Canines

 Shrag are the Brighton based heirs to the twee indie pop crown vacated by Amelia Fletcher once she abdicated from Heavenly. It’s the sound of Sarah Records in the 21st Century if that were possible. Having said that, it’s a more brittle sound. It’s moderately shouty, lyrically complex and occasionally political. It’s deceptively complex music with an undercurrent of angst which is never a bad thing.

The influences are proudly worn of Shrag’s collective sleeves. It’s the shouty indie pop of Huggy Bear, it’s the lo-fi old school sound of the Shop Assistants and at times it’s the offbeat harmonies of the B52’s. Throw in some Julian Cope, some Belle & Sebastian, some Joyce Mckinney, some Yeah Yeah Noh, some Lush and maybe just a dash of Altered Images, and you’re in the ballpark.

 And then we come to the voice of singer Helen King. It’s distinctive in a way that combines the sonic equivalent of heather honey with someone scraping their nails down a blackboard. It’s the ultimate sweet and sour experience, akin only to chewing Kendal mint cake and unsoaked salt cod at the same time. She also has the alluring look of a demented pixie which is never a bad thing, or perhaps an attractive version of Raggety from Rupert Bear. She certainly dances like Raggety anyway.

The songs are all crackers. ‘Tears of a Landlord’ is a brooding blast at property tycoons, ‘Show us your Canines’ is agit pop at its best and ‘Tendons in the Night’ almost harks back to Rip, Rig and Panic. The pick of the bunch is ‘On the Spines of Old Cathedrals’ where vocals melt into an unctuous chutney of sweet plums and caustic gooseberries. Gorgeous!

It’s my first Shrag album, but definitely not the last. A surprising little treat of an album which certainly shows us it’s canines.

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