Friday, July 18, 2008


Shriekback is not an easy band to classify. They borrowed heavily from funk but had a very different agenda; their music was more suited for contemplation than for parties. They combined synthesizers and drum machines with throbbing bass lines and unorthodox vocals to evoke a primordial world where the line between human and animal was blurred. The title of their fourth album, Big Night Music, might be the most succinct summation of their work: Shriekback's music was always an appropriate soundtrack for life in the dark, but with the emphasis on the possibilities rather than the dangers. Though often haunting, it was not gothic and harbored strains of pop and dance that rose to the surface from time to time. Still, however accessible they became, Shriekback cultivated an air of mystery that made them hard to pin down. Further complicating any evaluation of their career is the fact that they never made an impact in the states. They came close with the classic "Big Night Music" but these guys were never really made for the MTV generation. When they TRIED to conform, with 1989's GO BANG...well....the less said about THAT album, the better.
One of my favourite songs is from the Arista 1984 album Jam Science. "Mercy Dash" sounds like it should belong on Ministry's "With Sympathy"...and I'm just wondering if that album was on Barry's turntable at the time......hmmmm

There's no shortage of Shriekback classics to choose from. "Nemesis", the 12" mix of coarse, begins with Marlin Brando's voice from Apocolypse Now. How many other songs start out like THAT? think.

Finally....the BIG NIGHT MUSIC album is truely a unrecognized classic. Here's the first track, but I think all of them are worth a listen.





Anonymous said...

Shriekback, quite famously, never used drum machines.

Anonymous said...

I'm wrong... early on they used a drum machine. My mistake, great blog.