Shrag - Fox & Newt - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Shrag - Fox & Newt

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Tonight's first support act, Whole Sky Monitor, make twin-guitar indie-rock that's post-punky but also rather pedestrian. Everything looks good on paper but in the flesh it's just hard to get excited about a sound that's a little too workman like. Second act Runaround Kids, by contrast, are already getting some attention for their grungey, howl-along thrash. The likes of recent single 'Into the Light' are old-school emo before the eyeliner and Twilight years. This is bleeding-heart young man music, the soundtrack to a thousand missed opportunities to cop off with the cool girl at the end of the gig. And it's not my kind of thing, but I can't deny they do it well, with passion and commitment, so if this is your, erm, bag, man, you should check 'em out.

Shrag remain one of those cult, under-the-radar indie bands who keep putting out excellent music for their faithful fanbase despite the fact they'll probably never make an NME journo spaff down his drainpipes (too brainy, too grown-up, too female). Which is kind of a shame, because there's no doubt more people need to hear about this brilliant band.

Tonight, they launch into the first song on their muscular recent album Canines, pummelling guitars, keyboards and drums, before delivering a second blow with the equally ferocious 'Show Us Your Canines'. The sound is definitely meaner, meatier and tougher, as it is on record, but this is still a band whose DIY roots are going to show through, often in adorable ways.

So it is that during a between-song lull and equipment fiddle, lead singer Helen tells us how much better we are than the crowd in Birmingham the night before. This leads, after much coaxing from her band-mates, to Helen entertaining us with stunningly shaky attempts at Birmingham and Wakefield accents. There's never a dull moment with Shrag, a band who make serious music but have no interest in appearing serious or aloof.

As charming as this is, we're here for the music, and the set really hits its stride when the band launch into a thrillingly raw, rattling, lusty rendition of 'Devastating Bones', Canines' best track. After this comes the excellent 'Ghost Before Breakfast' from previous album Life! Death Prizes!, with Helen torturing her synth to sonic ecstasy. The rest of the set is just as good: 'Rabbit Kids', 'Cashing Consummations' and 'On the Spines of Old Cathedrals' are all zesty, affecting indie-pop.

They finish with stormy single 'Tendons of the Night', and there's just time for one more endearing fuck-up, as Helen and still-wonderously befringed keyboardist Steph are so wrapped up in their dancing they forget to actually sing. This leads to a classic exchange between the pair - Helen: "Steph, sing with your mouth!", Steph: "You sing with your mouth!" - after which the song is restarted with bassist Russell playing his 'axe' behind his head.

The music Shrag are making right now is a perfect mix of sophisticated, adult indie-pop and ramshackle DIY noise. They still sound delighted to be doing what they're doing. Seriously, more people need to know about this band - spread the word!

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Shrag - Fox & Newt - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab
Shrag - Canines
  • 07/02/2012
  • By Rich Morris