Funeral Shakes – Funeral Shakes

In the first few years of this preposterously unnamable decade, the success of Gallows’ seminal Grey Britain lit the touchpaper for a small underground explosion of wild and varied hardcore from the likes of Die Chihuahua Die, The Computers, The James Cleaver Quintet, Golden Tanks, Black Art and Horse in Transit to name but a few. Atop that gnarly pile were The Smoking Hearts, peddling a furious, barreling rock and roll version of the hardcore formula before they burned out in a shower of broken teeth, broken dreams and broken drinking spanners. Skip to 2018, and those bands are almost universally all dead and/or buried, but from the smouldering ashes of  The Smoking Hearts come Funeral Shakes, taking hold of that punk rock blueprint and striking the match once again. Despite featuring two members of said firebrands (Calvin Roffey on bass/vocal and Simon Barker on guitar), with Gallows drummer Lee Barratt and Nervus frontwoman Em Forster along for the ride, the Shakes are a markedly less threatening and more hip-shaking affair than their histories suggest, but enough of what they’re not, how about what they are: namely a blend of the nerd-do-well vibes of early Alkaline Trio and Weezer with a thoroughly British side-eye along the lines of Brawlers or Romans, all wrapped up in Rocket From The Crypt wrapping paper. Mixing surfy Americana with a healthy dose of British cynicism, the album bathes in the sunny aftermath of a broken heart, coating tales of failed romance in shimmering 1950s rock and roll, and a gothy glow that shines best in the moonlight. Buddy Holly diner-and-milkshake style guitars blend with a strained but emotive performance from Roffey, who is unlikely to win many prizes for singing, but can soar nonetheless given a razor sharp riff to slide down. Lead single and album opener Over You is arguably the strongest track on the album, seamlessly blending the band’s punk, surf, greaser and teddy boy influences over an anguished and impassioned vocal, but that’s not to say it’s all downhill from there. Lightning, Soap and Howl are all great examples of the band’s natural ability to sing from the punk hymn sheet while giving the charts a run for their money, and the songwriting is of a consistently high standard, with choruses slapping your mutton chopped face at just the right moments, however, while the gang are clearly having fun together, that doesn’t necessarily always translate to the listener. Feistier numbers like Circles still find time to throw in some summery Beach Boys woooooohs, and are destined to slay live, but a slightly sour and downbeat mood throughout makes the more plaintive likes of Lovebirds drag a little, while the Dick-Dale-wallowing-in-self-pity surf pop interlude of Gin Palace, as good as it is for what it is, derails proceedings somewhat. Decent if not remarkable, Funeral Shakes is to be admired for throwing something a little different into the pot, and more than deserves an audience, if only to see which bits kill live (and there will be many), and which bits don’t, prepping the world for a stonking follow-up.

Categories: Reviews

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