Shellshag, a duo from Brooklyn, play a unique style of fuzzy stoner punk. Live, Shell and Shag play drums and guitar, standing face-to-face and sharing a Y-shaped microphone stand (pictured on the album cover). It’s personal -- just look at the name – and feels alternately intimate, yet communal -- it has that impossible-to-define punk spirit that involves the audience as one with the group.
FUTQ is their latest and, despite that I can’t get the order of the acronym through my head after dozens of listens, it stands for “Follow Up The Quest.” The band has diverse influences that range from punk to DIY to new wave and pop. You’ll hear all those influences, but they aren’t overt. The melodic blend of instruments most often pulls from new wave rhythms, but with DIY punk production and honesty, plus an ear for pop beauty that touches the heart.
It’s emotional and slower, but it’s not necessarily soft. It’s personal and touching. But it’s not heart-on-sleeve singer-songwriter or anything like that. Shellshag is about how Shell and Shag connect. It’s not the merging of two voices into one, rather the interaction and interplay, such as forming rhythmic patterns with the limited instrumentation, or when one singer jumps in with a harmony or alternate verse.
Instrumental opener “Full Moon Young” sets an otherworldly, removed and isolated basement vibe. Then the first vocal track, “Open Season,” follows with a contrasting, more upbeat feel. Considering that changeup. On paper that sounds contradictory, but it’s not. Shellshag connects the complex emotions of life with an overlapping Venn diagram between these emotions and experiences. It’s often slower in tempo and driven by tone, but the band hits the gas a couple times, such as “Trigger,” which is more punkified and was also on a split with Fleshies -- who share some similar fuzzed-out sounds -- and “Kingdoms Crashing.” “Long Long Time Ago” reminds me a bit of Howardian.
Personal standouts include the remorseful “No Perfect,” the ethereal “Pretty Ugly” (with guest guitar from Kait Eldridge of Big Eyes), the inspiring melody of “Follow Up The Quest” and the dreamy “Torch.” The title track is well chosen to represent the record’s overall vibe. It often sounds serious and melancholy on the surface, but a closer listen reveals more playful expressions.
FUTQ is a record for people who like their music loud and noisy, but want to slow down sometimes and be a little more thoughtful instead of always running at full throttle. It has all the same elements, but it’s not always turned up to 11. From start to finish, it’s really consistent; all killer no filler, as they say.
7.5 / 10
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