The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Shjrunken Heads
Neolithic Dog Julian Marszalek , December 7th, 2020 09:30

London-based cosmic wizards Shjrunken Heads produce a terror-filled debut album deserving of multiple repeat listens, finds Julian Marszalek

Psychedelia concocted on this side of the Atlantic has almost always managed to cross that line that leaves whimsy behind to venture into far more sinister territories. This is less a case of looking back at the innocence of youth and more the tapping into childhood feelings of fear, insecurity and outright terror. It’s like that moment when, no longer needing a pushchair, your sense of curiosity results in you losing your mum in a department store for the first time to encounter dread, panic and anxiety. And no matter how many sweets she buys you to calm you down, it’s that feeling apprehension that will forever linger.

Neolithic Dog, the debut album by cosmic explorers Shjrunken Heads, is an album that frequently elicits those same feelings. It’s there in the spinning menace of the wonderfully titled ‘Whiskey And Poppers’, a drunken and intoxicated waltz that spins and lurches to create a mood of disorientation. And you’ll also find it in the overwhelming creepiness of ‘Jump In The Nile’, an oppressive and unsettling chill that feels like the Grim Reaper’s hand resting in your shoulder.

Shjrunken Heads are a band who know the menacing value of keyboards that sound like Wurlitzers. Beloved of horror movies and fairgrounds, this is music that taps into primal fears. But this isn’t an outright exercise in terror. Elsewhere, the mechanoid Euro-funk of ‘Cremantique’ blends solid low-end rhythms from bassist Maxwell Harrison and the breathy vocals of guitarist Marion Andrau with Andy Clydesdale’s ever-present keys. Propelled by Surya Buck’s solid time keeping, the arse-kicking ‘Karnaval’ evokes the earlier explorations of Black Mountain when spacerock was the currency they dealt in.

Neolithic Dog is shot through with a satisfying heaviness. This is a meaty record, to be sure, but it’s one that brings together a variety of ingredients that ensures a decent spread throughout rather than an over-reliance on any one element. Crucially, it’s a record that bears repeated listens while pointing the way forward – whatever terrors that may bring.