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Shiny Darkly
Little Earth Bob Cluness , June 24th, 2015 11:12

The Danish indie label Crunchy Frog is one of those slightly off-kilter institutions that never slotted easily into any contemporary music fashions or spaces. Starting in the mid 90s from the ashes of cult Danish band Thau and the demise of the indie music label Cloudland, they've gradually built up a body of releases that mine a deep seam of retro rock with Danish acts such as Superheroes, The Tremelo Beer Gut, Powersolo, Thee Attacks and the John Spencer fronted rockabilly band, Heavy Trash. But they're best known for achieving international success in the previous decade, not once but twice; first with Junior Senior, then with The Ravonettes.

Shiny Darkly are one of the latest additions to their roster. A trio of lads from Copenhagen, they first grabbed people's attention with their 2012 self-titled debut EP, a rickety but vital collection of pungent, ball-room size guitar clanging, drawling nonsensical vocals, and cartoon goth-punk poses, all sunglasses at midnight, deathrock brooding, and sullen pouts.

A few years later they're back with their debut full length album, Little Earth. And on first listen, you can hear that their music has evolved and expanded a little from their origins, taking The Horror's Primary Colours album as a blueprint, albeit with the psychedelic careening edges sanded off. The intro of opening song 'Little Earth' signals ominous intentions. A two-note discordant guitar line and floor tom death-stomp announces their arrival before singer Kristoffer Bech's vocals plunge in an open mouthed drawl/scream alongside aggressive powerchord riffs.

From such a beginning, Little Earth is a pretty enjoyable collection of poised, thrusting, moody goth rock with just that little soupçon of psych. While the loud, billowing guitar feedback and heavy bass are still present throughout the album, you inadvertently find yourself playing a fun game of 'influence whack-a-mole' as you listen: Nick Cave's Birthday Party era yowps and howls on songs such as 'Soft Skin' and 'Underworlds'; The icy, slightly elegiac synths on 'Animal Fate' and 'Ignorance' that wouldn't be out of place in The Cure's Disintergration or The Chameleons. Add to this the heavy floor tom action, expansive reverb use and the full-on rock moisture of The Sisters Of Mercy or Southern Death Cult. All the resident motifs and hallmarks are there, mixed, blended, and wrapped up in Shiny Darkly's own brand of gloom and cool, fun, sexy-time nihilism.

Throughout Little Earth, there's more than a hint of strutting swagger and machismo on display (A point slyly rammed home on the video to 'Soft Skin,' which opens up with three bulging close up shots of each band member's groins). Their doom and darkness comes from the classic rock areas of sexual jealousy, hormonal frustration, and heartbreak. This is why any comparisons to The Cure and especially Joy Division are so spectacularly off the mark. Those bands had a despondency and bleakness that stained their very soul and stripped any libidinal and erotic qualities from their music, leaving in their wake a full blown existential horror of depressed melancholia of zero affect (and with Joy Division, we all know how that turned out). By comparison, Shiny Darkly are just too exuberant, too full of fervour to be truly considered as knights of darkness.

How much you'll enjoy Little Earth depends on how you take your goth and post-punk tendencies. If you prefer to have your music wading into the dark abyss of the nothing, then you might find that Shiny Darkly offer little more than surface affect. But if you are a sucker for some heavy, gothic theatrical beauty that at times edges closely to outright camp hysteria, then Little Earth is going to provide a deep whirlpool of delight.  

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