Scratch the surface of the music demimonde today and you’ll find yourself entering a place to which you are very well accustomed. Despite the fresh gloss of the modern industry, there is still the stuff of old to get your teeth into: there’s rock (somehow disgracefully, imperceptibly beginning to fall foul of modern tastes), pop, and (the classical aside) that other thing that lacks genre definition but yet seems to keep the multitude of hats out there very happy (Phil Minton being a case in point, but don’t YouTube search him, if you know what’s good for you).
So the talent is still out there, you see, some of it lying fallow, some of it gaining the cash injection needed to see it once again take flight, and with Shadowparty and the band’s signing to Mute Records, we have a return worth looking at.
With this eponymously titled debut album, some of the dead spaces of the music business have had a Klieg light shone into them, permitting the listener to better appreciate just how much room there actually is for new artists, or artists returning with new material, arriving in defiant opposition to the narrowcast of corporate ambition.
The nucleus of the group formed when Josh Hager and Tom Chapman met in Boston, Massachusetts. Hager is a former member of The Rentals and also plays in Devo, while Chapman is the former bass player of Bad Lieutenant who followed frontman Bernard Sumner to New Order in 2011. Completing the line up are Phil Cunningham, New Order’s guitarist since 2002, and Devo drummer Jeff Friedl. Recorded in Boston, LA, Manchester and Macclesfield, the album also includes guest appearances from Denise Johnson (Primal Scream, A Certain Ratio) and The Verve’s gifted axeman, Nick McCabe.
This record is a more than adequate calling card, the band’s members working the vinyl’s grooves wth a softly muscled ease. The band’s inevitable second album, one hopes, should permit them further outreach (and, if he deigns to appear again, should allow the McCabe guitar to sing with the electric beauty for which its player became rightly lauded).
‘Shadowparty’ is more than the sum of its parts, but that doesn’t prevent each of the personnel present here from standing out, clearly delineated against the album’s backdrop, and with hInts of a soporific nostalgia always potentially afflicting a project like this, here the participants are unaffected. Talents such as these can frequently threaten to cancel each other out as each artist seeks to make a mark as indelible as the one for which he first became well known, but again this is not the case.
The opening track ‘Celebrate’ clearly benefits from the considered input of the producer, while ‘Taking Over’ with its lengthy instrumental preamble makes for unprejudiced listening. The synthpop of ‘Reverse the Curse’ is very danceable, the album’s tone then shifting on ‘Marigold’ as John Mealing-style strings evoke an unexpected Drakeish feel, despite the modernisation; it’s an opulently layered track. ‘Sooner Or Later’ possesses the pulse of the terraces with the clip and the cut of The Clash, and the libidinous female vocal on ‘Present Tense’ comes as a balm. The album rounds itself off with orchestration and a filmic soundscape (‘Even So’) and with a sage, handsome nod to T Tex (‘Truth’) and, if I’m being honest, to Talking Heads.
Shadowparty, therefore, have come up with the goods. It’s a sound wholly British, the influences worn boldly; it’s a sound, it would seem, of a resurgent British voice at a moment in the cultural life of these isles when a boldness like this is often scoffed at.
But this is music. There are no borders in music.
Shadowparty’s debut album is out on 27 July