The thing about Don Giovanni Records bands is that from the Groucho Marxists to Screaming females, they are in a constant state of agitation, that whatever they are or playing, they have a sense of moral outrage that is a defining characteristic of the label. Even extreme local folk purveyors of the album of the year Modern Hut. Yes, even Shellshag.
Shellshag are couple John Driver and Jennifer Shagrat, they’ve played together since 1997 and I have seen them live numerous times, and I have never been displeased even if they’ve felt like a stopgap between Hilly Eye on one side and Black Wine on the other, but this year Shellshag blew away all competition with the magnificent ten song set, Forever.
The album is strong and yet supple, it is a Taoist achievement about how life comes to it, to the couple and its friends, and how that is enough. In the familial, or at least in the communal, in the me and my friends at the center of these wonderful friends is a vision of a musical life as an ongoing community.
It opens with one of their best songs ever, the self-portrait “Face To Face” which chugs like distorted rockabilly, “easy, just me, face to face” John sings, and, with the strange looking double headed microphone stand Shell and Shag use, that’s exactly what they are doing, how they spend their life.
“Driving Song” is a smack down of the baddies and advise to people who should know better, a politician dismissed with “bullshit this man is a liar”.
The songs are scaled back but they aren’t small, the melodies don’t sneak up on you, they are there from the get go and the pleasures certainly aren’t small, they are large and consistent. At the heart of Forever, their best album is the faith in a Brooklyn that never quite paid off, it is faith in a way of life which revolves around love and songs; almost hippieish. On “Wasted Imagination” the world seems smaller, “lost in translation” but the world is most important as they see it, “always imagination” is a call for a vision of life different, a bohemian sense of other worlds.
The sheer consistency of this album is a treasure, barely 30 minutes, it sounds great in repeat, a lovely, melodic dream of community, family, love, it is like Yo La Tengo without the Sonic Youth addiction. No longer a stop gap in t Don Giovanni world, this leads em to the top of the hill.
simultaneously self-effacing and egomaniacs
essentially a disco remix of “Rocket Man” featuring one of the the UK’s biggest stars…
“I literally really need you to jump up and down”
Friday night might kill us but Thursday evening is a blast
it just isn’t the triumph she needed after six years
an impressive sonic ride.
a high-spirited Post Pandemic anthem
a memorable band who were never better than here
almost Pink Floyd-esque