Everything’s coming up Shoppers.
That’s what they want you to think. They want to lull you into that false sense of security, the kind that you have when you’re shuffling the corridors of your local mall. You’re in kind of a tepid euphoria, then, aren’t you? The possibilities of purchase seem endless, and your inner consumer has a big, fat grin on its face, primed to be sated like a pig at a trough. There’s a glint, a gleam, a silver lining on everything, you can be happy, just do it already.
But it’s not all peachy fucking keen under there, is it. There’s a dirty monster inside us all, angry, confused, stupid, ready to burst out and knock over displays, throw furniture through windows, and yell at your whiny kid because you’re too much of a douchebag to do it yourself. If you tore off your shirt and looked closely, you’d see periodic jabs of a gnarled claw expanding your skin from within, a pissed-off, cruddy demon of true human nature on the verge of appearance. If that’s really what’s inside us, are we doing ourselves a favor by bottling it up inside? Or should we let it loose? Mmm, in a shopping mall maybe.
The Syracuse noise punk trio, fronted by powderkeg Meredith Graves, revel in that extreme, quickly mustering to blow your speakers and your mind with powerful shredded guitars and slashing rhythms. They’re clearly agitated, and hearing them blur wildly from one riled moment to another is a breathless and exciting thrill. And they’re not holding anything back – those scrambled guitars are merely a cover for psychological casualty: scrambled hearts, brains, and sexual organs populate the majority of the lyrics (at least those you can make out). The tracks themselves are no help either, as 1 through 8 are titled, in Roman numerals, “I” through “VIII.” Ah, well, I’ll get through this review on my guile, I guess.
Graves is a powerful presence, even though her voice is distorted in the mix – it sounds like she’s belting through a megaphone (and who doesn’t want to bleat sexually charged lyrics through a megaphone?) – think of a hybrid between Pussy Galore/Boss Hog’s Christina Martinez and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, and you’re right in the ballpark. And I think she has issues – “IV” digs through her shame, yet she sneers self-loathingly “I’m so good at making friends!” On “VII,” she seems particularly interested in receding further into herself, as she belts with increasing dejection, presumably to a lover, “First I close my legs / And I close my mouth / Then I close my heart / Now I’ve shut it down.”
All this negative power is perfect for a gigantic energy release, á la the punk rock album! And Silver Year is a wonderful mixture of that bratty energy and the tonal experimentation of likeminded guitar-rending forebears Sonic Youth and Drive Like Jehu. The guitars sound mangled, just how I like ’em. Following a Washington, DC, show in July, the Washington City Paper reported this nugget of onstage banter: “Hi, we’re Shoppers from New York, and I just broke four strings in the first song.” I’m not surprised in the slightest – “I” is a jittery count-up to ripshit, and when Graves gets to 10, she realizes it’s been there all along. So the band just careens headlong and unbroken into “II.” Powerful, quick, brutal, and transitions made for the ADD addled … excellent.
So let’s back it up – there isn’t an ounce of mallrat in this girl, or in this band. Shoppers would rather put your head through plate glass than meander stupidly through suburban shopping centers. Let them prove it to you with Silver Year.
RIYL: Boss Hog, Pussy Galore, Bikini Kill, Drive Like Jehu, Sonic Youth