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Joe Gideon & The Shark
Freakish Julian Marszalek , January 24th, 2013 05:08

Arriving hot on the heels of a highly successful three-year absence since the release of their debut album, Harum Scarum – a gap precipitated, we're told, by births and deaths – brother-sister duo Joe Gideon and the Shark's second collection does much to live up to its name but ends up settling on frustrating the listener instead. An amalgam of riffs, bludgeoning beats, effects and off-kilter spoken word monologues, Joe Gideon and the Shark's quirky mix has, in the past, attracted the attentions of patrons such as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Seasick Steve but Freakish frustrates because it only really tells part of the story.

As is the case with any act that incorporates a heavy visual element into its oeuvre, Freakish is stymied in its attempts to present the complete package. That isn't to suggest that this is a bad album but by the same token it isn't a great one either. Taken within a live context, Joe Gideon and the Shark's numerous components slip easily into place as Viva's (that'll be the Shark) visual drumming style and Joe's control of any number of effects mangling, fuzzing and boosting an arsenal of crunching riffs to produce an enticing audio-visual package. Shawn of its visual attributes, Freakish enthrals and irritates in almost equal measure.

Part of the problem is Joe over-reliance on spoken word pieces. As displayed on the musically arresting opener 'I'm Ruined', his unremarkable monotone would have benefited from some compression or shrewder mixing. On the other hand, Viva's vocal contributions – witness the electronic joy of 'Poor Born' or the ethereal 'Friday 13' – ushers in a greater sense of melodic intervention to the album that at once creates a world that's at odds at what's gone on before.

But where there are downs in other places there are ups – and damn fine ones at that. 'The Insignificant Bullet' finds Joe's voice brilliantly coalescing with his sister's vocal contributions over a hypnotically walking riff that lifts the album to another level. Similarly, the epic title track does much to atone for any previous misfires. Almost trance-like in its repetition of grooves with a wonderful mastery of sonic dynamics, the flights of lyrical surrealism that embellish it mark this down as something wonderful.

A mixed bag then but one that will doubtless prove that one person's high will be another one's low. There's a balance to be struck and it's difficult to shake the feeling that when it is this will be one high wire act worth watching.