Shrag - Life! Death! Prizes!

by Katy Ledger Rating:8 Release Date:2010-10-04

If you were to chuck The B-52s' 'Rock Lobster', Life Without Buildings' 'The Leanover' and Pixies' 'Debaser' into a blender, the resulting amalgamation would be Life! Death! Prizes!, the second offering from Brighton based five-piece Shrag.

Though technically their second album, the first was more like a collection of singles, so this could be seen as their first real crack at a long player. It certainly has the excitement and spirit of a first album from a band trying to show us everything they've got in 12 songs. From the opening bass line of 'A Certain Violence' through to the ringing note that closes 'Coda', the energy on this album doesn't let up; creating a riotous, intriguing and messy (in a good way) collection of danceable scuzz-pop. No one can accuse Shrag of not going for broke on this album.

There are moments of tweeness such as 'Tights in August' which are then nicely soured with the jagged guitars and bags of distortion that make 'Ghosts Before Breakfast' the frenzied stand out track . Driving bass and surf guitars create a nice slice of indie pop on 'Stubborn or Bust', 'The Habit Creep' on the other hand is a dark and eerie sounding track and a welcome antidote to the hyperactivity that resounds throughout the rest of the album.

The brattish and talky vocal delivery of lead singer Helen may not be to everyone's taste but the one thing which, in my humble opinion, stops Life! Death! Prizes! from being a 9/10 album are the lyrics. Despite being fairly low in the mix, it's obvious in some parts that Shrag are knowingly trying to sound super-smart and intelligent, although this is a pleasant progression when compared to the obnoxious lyrics of the first album, where they sung about teenage pregnancy and shop lifting with all the intelligence of a snotty 16-year-old. The increase in Bob's vocals is also a development and creates a refreshing counter to Helen's shouty outbursts. In short, this is a more grown-up, interesting and ambitious album - I double dare you not to dance to it.

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