What if you could have all the great hits of the early 90s on one record: Liz Phair, INXS, Archers of Loaf all on one easy-to-manage collection? Okay, so this cover set from Brooklyn’s Shell Shag also includes DIY punk like Underground Railroad to Candyland and AK77, as well as songs from The Descendents, The Wipers, Warsaw, and The Undertones. Despite all of this, the most memorable songs on here are the more, um, novel ones like “Fuck and Run” and “The Promise.”
Fuck Society isn’t for everybody. In fact, it may only be for a few select groups: Shell Shag fans, and people who have long thought that songs from the 80s and early 90s would be best if re-imagined by a two-piece punk band. The song selection is curious, blending novelty with songs you can tell the band are honestly fans of—up to the final and titular track—which is an original performed by AK77 instead of Shell Shag. The band just liked the song so much they wanted to share the hard-to-come-by song. They do cover it live, though. In fact, even the more questionable choices on the record are done with an honesty that has me second-guessing my use of the word “novelty.”
Because of the band’s distinct, understated approach and consistent vocal tones, the songs actually all fit together despite the different original styles, giving a subdued, snare-heavy and melodic take to the songs with a bit of a stoner whitewash. Full disclosure time: I haven’t heard a regular full-length from the band, so I can’t make that comparison. I recall seeing them at a previous Fest and the sound was relatively in tune with this record—perhaps, in part, because these covers have been a part of their live show over the years.
It’s hard to pick standouts among so many familiar songs, but the INXS, Shotwell, and Fleshies songs are among those that stick with you. The vocals exchanges and melodies between Jen Shag and Johnny Shell express a frustration bubbling beneath a sense of complacency, with moments of stronger anger that pinnacle but quickly move on, letting Shag’s drumming lead the songs while Shell’s guitar offers a reassuring tone. Despite the familiarity of the songs and the variety of original songwriters, the record is unified in sound and offers a steady listen that hints at a troubled world while maintaining a sense of fun. There are shades of Liz Phair throughout “Fuck and Run,” but the general tone is all Shell Shag.
And just remember: if you need a friend/ don’t look to a stranger/ you know in the end/ Shell Shag will be there.
7.0 / 10
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