Let’s start with a call to arms: It’s time for the heavy music industry to crawl out of John Carpenter’s arse and remember that synths don’t equal innovation. That equation died in the 1980s, near the beginning I might add, and it’s not coming back, no matter how many suffixes you attach (I’m looking at you synthwave). There are currently some factions so deep inside Carpenter’s Chatham pocket they can touch The Thing, and for the sake of all that is decent, it has to stop. Or else Gama Bomb will set Kurt Russell on you.
Anyway, rant over, how is this relevant to Shining and their new album Animal? Sadly, very much so, as Jorgen Munkeby’s blackjazz pioneers have wholesale turned their backs on the squealing industrial saxophone scree of past releases (you know, the stuff that made them interesting) in favour of, you guessed it, synths. The album starts off OK with the driving one-two of Take Me and the title track, inviting us to accept a more straightforward electro-rock version of the band with a focus on groove rather than noise, and placing them squarely in the same realms as Crossfaith and modern-day Bring Me The Horizon. Even track three, My Church, has an affable glam stomp about it, and all three are perfectly serviceable, if unremarkable, pop-rock tracks that use said synths to propel their message, but then the ironically titled Fight Song kicks in, and it’s hard to imagine the fight this Muse-meets-Europe fodder could win. Perhaps a tickle fight? From here on in, it’s clear that the Shining of old is long gone, replaced with a “mainstream” version that has been robbed of all the squonk that made them such a thrilling prospect in the first place. In naming the album Animal, either Munkeby is suggesting that this is an entirely new beast (correct), or that the album has some bite (incorrect). The day-glo tiger on the cover would suggest the latter, but sadly this is less big cat and more small mollusc. Bring Me The Horizon is the most obvious comparison for this new sound, especially when you hear Take Me‘s chorus, but without the anthemic nature of that behemoth’s arena bluster, tracks like Smash It Up and When I’m Gone come across more like Twenty One Pilots. If that’s your jam, then Animal is a decent enough stab at that sound and you will probably find something to enjoy, but for those that won’t forget the wonky delights of Fisheye or I Won’t Forget, it feels like an unnecessary leap for the bandwagon that is unlikely to do Shining’s reputation any favours.
Animal is out 19 October on Spinefarm