Review Summary: A bold step and one that marks them out as one of the few breakout bands in recent years to genuinely justify their own hype...
It takes some degree of confidence and/or lunacy to name a song ‘(-_-)’. Did we all not know better, there might even be detected a hint of racism in Adebisi Shank’s choice of emoticon (remember kids, it’s not offensive, it’s ofFUNnsive), inspired as the album is by the Wexford trio’s frequent tours to Japan.
Creative use of punctuation notwithstanding, Wexford’s greatest export (yes, even greater than the Kennedys) have taken anything but a whimsical approach to the recording of their second album. The group’s sense of humour and passion for all things kitsch remain, but the record itself is a typically meticulous production, marrying precise Van Halen
-style guitar heroics with the difficult, off-kilter rhythms of math rock and – as of late – Japanese video game music.
For their second record, the Adebisis have expanded upon the blueprint of their first with a range of new influences: they experiment with vocals, both lead (the ‘Mr. Roboto’-style vocoder chorus on ‘Genki Shank’) and embedded (Villagers
’ Conor O’Brien guests on ‘Europa’); there’s a hint of saxophone on triumphant opener ‘International Dreambeat’; and to everybody’s great relief guitarist Lar Kaye has belatedly discovered the top three strings on his guitar. At 10 tracks and almost 40 minutes – nearly twice as long as the first – the second album is a far more developed and nuanced record.
‘International Dreambeat’ will have served as most people’s introduction – it’s both the first track on the record itself and the first album track to be premiered on Nialler9’s blog back in July – and indeed the biggest culture shock. Whereas Adebisi Shank’s first record was frenetically-paced from the very beginning, ‘International Dreambeat’ kicks things off on a more sedate note, with toy-like synths (reminiscent of countrymen Grand Pocket Orchestra
) gradually giving way to jubilant full guitar chords and Mick Roe’s aggressive drum-keeping.
Surprisingly, given his pivotal role on the first album, bassist Vinny McCreith is conspicuous by his apparent absence of presence. With the notable exception of closing track ‘Century City,’ ‘pon which he lays down a slap-bass riff of the most funky and game-changing persuasion, Vinny’s bass work is confined mainly to rhythm-keeping. Where he really excels is behind the synthesiser, lending a stuttering Shugo Tokumaru
feel to ‘International Dreambeat,’ chiptune influences to ‘Micromachines’ and faux-wood percussion to ‘Logdrum.’
Fans of the first album will find much to dig in ‘Masa,’ ‘Genki Shank’ and ‘Micromachines’ – each of the three tracks evoking the unwieldy enthusiasm of that record, but with a brighter, more upbeat feel – while the angular guitar riffs of ‘Frunk’ and the Dire Straits
-like swing and powerful drumming of ‘Bones’ adhere closer still to the band’s early blueprint. In contrast to the first album, tracks tend to start slow and build to a crescendo, rather than going nought-to-60 in the first few seconds, though tracks like ‘Century City’ and ‘Masa’ show they haven’t forgotten the old tricks.
As a whole, the Second Album isn’t quite as compelling as its predecessor. ‘Masa’ and ‘Genki Shank’ rank as good as anything on the first album, but hovering around the 4 and 5-minute mark respectively, they veer dangerously close to outstaying their welcome. ‘Logdrum’ surpasses the six-minute mark, but it becomes repetitive far earlier, while for all its bluster ‘Frunk’ is a relatively ineffective rehash of the tricks that made the first album so thrilling. These are relatively minor flaws, however, and the general impression is of a looser, more mature, more adventurous Adebisi Shank.
The greatest hurdle Adebisi Shank had to overcome was the temptation to merely repeat the formula they’d established on the first record. That test they passed with room to spare, and it’s great to hear such a talent group try new things and incorporate radically different influences. Although it’s not quite as coherent or as thrilling as their first record, This is the Second Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank
is a bold step and one that marks them out as one of the few breakout bands in recent years to genuinely justify their own hype.