Shellfin - Cities Without Names (Own Label)

Adventurous stoner chaps from Brisbane hit the bullseye!

Brisbane ‘regressive’ rockers Shellfin. I like them. And I like their new album a lot. But, let’s face it, after just one listen I can’t imagine that any of you reading this review won’t absolutely adore Cities Without Names, such is it’s easy charm and sprawling, widescreen appeal.

Opening track Poisoned Heart sets the scene adequately, though it’s very far from the best of what’s on offer here – think of it merely as an appetizer, a menacingly thunderous amuse-bouche before the real banquet starts, which happens to be with track two, the deliriously rambling Get On. Really, if this track had have been recorded by Monster Magnet or someone of that ilk, the hipster press would be drooling all over the bugger, but we more discerning people know that the good stuff isn’t always found spewing out of the mouths of the established and the revered, oh no – and this delicious mix of Maiden, Sabbath, Orange Goblin et al is a s good a dose of ‘stuff’as I’ve heard in a while in this genre.

But wait, there’s more. Instrumental interlude Alesios Speculum burbles by, almost unnoticed before morphing into the spectacular weirdness that is The Earth is An Egg, which starts off like a piece of speed-freak Hawkwind-styled mayhem before somehow – and still, after repeated listens, I don’t know how the band pulls this off – mutating into a version of Megadeth’s Hangar 18 that sounds like it’s been filtered through the brains of nineties rap-rock also rans The Fun Lovin’Criminals… Like I said, I don’t know how they did it, I’m just glad to have been around when they did.

Normal riffular service is resumed on the superbly stentorian Down to Zero, a punchy, axe-heavy rocker that features a fine vocal from Douglas Bjur, whilst the amusing lyrics of She is a Robot are counterpointed by some more splendid aural concreting as supplied by guitarist Josh Bliesner and drummer James Geekie.

Staggeringly, …Robot carries a huge whiff of Madchester veterans The Stone Roses and Oasis (Bjur’s phrasing at times is pure Ian Brown), and it’s this willingness to chance the arm, to throw in ‘pop’ references that most stoner bands would baulk at which sets Shellfin apart from the pack. They ain’t afraid to follow their hearts, and damn the torpedoes, and that’s a very, um,  heartening trait. It’s most evinced in the band’s cover of Australian psyche-pop classic The Real Thing, tucked away towards the end of the album after the glorious riff feast that is Smoking Gun; ‘unknown’ bands taking on established classics are always on a hiding to nothing, but the band take the song by the scruff of the neck (sending hippy love beads flying everywhere in the process) and totally make it a Shellfin track by the time they’re done.  Not many in Shellfin’s position could pull it off, and that it’s done with such aplomb is a mark of this band’s potential.

Final tracks Tomorrow Never Arrives, Delusional and the closing title track all bare this feeling out, and I’ve got no reservations in wholeheartedly recommending this fantastic album to anyone with an interest in high quality, superbly-executed hard rock. Great stuff. 

 

Cities Without Names is out now.