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Strange World Of...

The Strange World Of... Shit And Shine
JR Moores , November 30th, 2021 08:56

We're really made up that one of our favourite sonic entities, Shit And Shine, has recorded an epic Singularity track for our Sound & Vision subscribers. Here JR Moores talks to Craig Clouse in order to offer a ten track guide to his epic S&S back catalogue

To receive Singularity track 'Above Ground Pool' by Shit And Shine become a Quietus Sound & Vision subscriber

It is sometimes off-putting when a band flaunts a naughty word, from the outset, in their very name. It can suggest they are vying a little too hard for attention and infamy, like desperate punkers Fuckshovel, the appropriate response being that meme of David Brent going, "Ooh, you're hard." And yet, every now and then, there comes an act that can truly back up the use of a good old expletive. They prove themselves the real deal, if you like. Early Butthole Surfers, for instance, whose name was taken by the great John Peel to be a reassuring badge of integrity. As Peel wrote in a 1987 Observer column, the noise-rockers' bawdy moniker suggested they were "not one of those bands hoping for a fun-run on the underground scene before exploding into big pop". Peel did not anticipate the Buttholes' Beck-ish hit single 'Pepper'. We are still awaiting Shit And Shine's equivalent ditty. As Craig Clouse tells us, it's not for want of trying that his project has never scored a lucrative crossover smash. "Shit, are you kidding?! I've been trying my whole life. I just don't have it in me. I would fucking love to write something that sold more than 500 copies on vinyl. Butthole Surfers are smart. I play in a band with one of them [King Coffey] here in Austin, Texas, called USA/MEXICO. He’s as sharp as sharp can be. They simply decided it was time to write a hit, and did just that. I'm too stupid to make that happen."

Big pop may not be Craig Clouse's forte. Even so, he's still managed to dabble in more styles than Picasso's favourite paintbrush. People sometimes file Shit And Shine under "noise rock" which is understandable because it is, objectively speaking, THE BEST GENRE. Such pigeonholing does a huge disservice in this case, however, seeing as Shit And Shine have released everything from heavy metal perversion pieces to pounding and shiny techno.

Clouse once described Shit And Shine as his "fuck-all-y'all band", as opposed to other projects such as his since-defunct "rock band" TODD (who hardly sounded like Steppenwolf themselves). "Did I say that?" he asks now. "That's pretty cringe. That's me being a tough guy email cowboy, typing stupid shit for effect. I think what I meant is that Shit And Shine is pretty free and open to do anything, and TODD was strictly noise rock. Whatever that is." Clouse was based in London for several years, where Shit And Shine was conceived in 2004. Since 2010, this American noisenik has lived back in Austin, Texas however. He is the only constant member of Shit And Shine. Some recordings are created solo. For others, he ropes in different sets of open-minded associates.

The live experience can also vary greatly. In the past, Clouse has shown a penchant for recruiting as many drummers as possible from a gig's local area, inviting them to bash away over a repeated riff for an entire set, and insisting they all wear fluffy bunny ears. It's been known to unsettle audiences and musicians alike. "A guest drummer in Prague couldn't quite understand our directions for the song and didn't know when to start," Clouse told one interviewer. "[He] sat behind his kit not playing, waiting for some kind of sign. We finished the show and he started crying because he was so upset that he didn't get to play."

Created under the influence of Texan weed, new Quietus Singularity track 'Above Ground Pool' flaunts what Clouse describes as a "repetitive Suicide vibe" and is decked with shouty soundbites. "When I’m looking for vocal samples," he explains, "I always go to YouTube and search the word 'argument'. I found some videos called 'Grumpy Grandpa' and they were perfect. No politics or agenda, just an angry old guy bitching. In the vid, he accidentally backs his car into an above ground swimming pool and destroys it. Hilarious." It slots perfectly into the wider discography, Clouse says: "Classic Shit And Shine. Repetition. Noise. A little humour…"

As we begin our walk through the vast, varied and veritably daunting smorgasbord that is Shit And Shine's output, bear in mind this piece could have been written and rewritten several times over with an entirely different set of phantastical bangers. "What do you mean there's no 'Toilet Door Tits', 'Stop Saying Awesome' or 'Pissing On A Shed'?! Who does this hack think he is?", I hear you cry. We don't want to hear it. Do not take anything you read here as gospel. We're less in the business of shed-pissing than light-shedding, to provide some slight sense of the sheer breadth of Clouse's sonic powers and his demonstrably far-from-stupid imagination.

'L'Oubli' from You're Lucky To Have Friends Like Us (2004)

This track contains several elements that would become key to Shit And Shine's agenda. The repetition. Its rhythmic clattering. A nice, solid bass tone. Some murky vocal goings-on. An ominous underlying vibe. Also, a sense of fun. After two minutes and ten seconds, the busy aural chaos suddenly gives way to the comfortingly familiar daytime ticking of the Countdown clock theme. "That first LP was fun because we never had any expectations. I mean ZERO," remembers Clouse. "It was just a couple dumbasses drinking cans of cheap beer, smoking weed, and just playing with a cheap-ass basic sampler. It was never taken seriously. Just something to do after the pub. The idea that a label would actually get behind Shit And Shine and release our stuff on vinyl or whatever? HA! Not even part of the equation! That song was just that. It's all of the moment. Never planned. Throw down a beat, drink another beer, stick in a bass line, and record vocals in French. That's my favourite song from that LP. I thought it sounded a bit Fall-like in its controlled randomness."

'Practicing To Be A Doctor' from Jealous Of Shit And Shine (2006)

This track is the centrepiece of Shit And Shine's third studio album. Some would argue it is the central masterpiece of Clouse's entire career. That's despite the fact that it is, technically speaking, another band's song. 'Practicing To Be A Doctor' was originally recorded by Strangulated Beatoffs, who were formed by Stan Seitrich after the breakup of Drunks With Guns. Their 1990 7-inch recording of this "tune" ends in laughter after about five minutes, which clearly isn't long enough. Step up Shit And Shine, then, to stretch the ugly fucker out for over half an hour. "We opened for Part Chimp at Buffalo Bar," recalls Clouse, "and we played that song for eight minutes while a guy stood directly in front of us yelling how shit we were. Total success. Shit And Shine was born."

'Fuck You Folk Singers' from Bass Puppy (2010)

The Bass Puppy 12-inch represents Shit And Shine's short-lived dubstep phase. Well, it's not quite dubstep. Then again, Shit And Shine is never quite anything tangibly categorisable. An enthusiastic Ant from Norman Records wrote that it made "the likes of The Bug and Scorn sound like the happy little elves in tinkly winkly land. It's like Prurient and Skream in a hideous car crash". Sure enough, this thundering bastard of a track is perhaps as far away from folk that music can get. "So much anger! Ha!," says Clouse. "I really don't have anything against folk singers. It all just fell together, the way any Shit And Shine song does. I have a old Wonder Woman story LP. i sampled some dialogue on the record where Wonder Woman is battling The God Of War and he says, 'Urgh, one of those peace loving folk singers'. So I expanded on the theme."

'Who's Your Waitress' from Powder Horn (2014)

In contrast to the filthy and pummelling 'Fuck You Folk Singers' (and to most of Shit And Shine's work, in fact), 'Who's Your Waitress' is remarkably smooth, almost unnervingly so, just to keep listeners on their toes. It hints at g-funk, The Orb, and Aphex Twin's 'Windowlicker'. The vocal distortions are prettier than usual, like a visit from some friendly and probe-averse Auto-Tuned alien creature. Is this Shit And Shine's most accessible moment? "That might have been an attempt to actually write a catchy dance tune," confesses Clouse. "I want to make more music like that: an LP of just really sexy synthy slow jams." Well, stranger things have happened.

'Denim Do's And Don'ts' from Chakin' (2015)

Given Clouse's catholic-with-a-small-c tastes, it was only a matter of time before he turned his hand to jazz. His Chakin' ensemble featured Ingebrigt Haker­Flaten, King Coffey and Nate Cross. The vocals were completed by Pete Simonelli of Enablers, who'd sung (or rather spoken) on prior Shit And Shine album cuts 'Am I Nice Guy?' and 'Preventions Arise'. Over a casual groove with rickety furniture, somewhere between Miles Davis and Jackie-O Motherfucker, Simonelli narrates one of his Bukowskian tales of American lowlife, for about a quarter of an hour. "That's when I decided I wanted to be a 'jazz musician' but didn't actually know how, so I just did it my way," says Clouse. "That's what jazz is, right? Free interpretation?" Niiiiiice, as The Fast Show's Louis Balfour would say.

'Ibanez Destroyer' from Teardrops (2016)

In yet another drastic swerve of direction (perhaps "skid" is a more appropriate term in this case), Shit And Shine's Teardrops LP was so METAL that even the label blurb sounded surprised. "Recent times have seen him receive glowing praise for his more electronic work on labels such as Editions Mego, Rocket Recordings and Diagonal," it read. "So what does Clouse do next? He knocks out a GRINDCORE album of course. It'll ruin your weekend." Plenty more malevolent metal subgenres were writhing in its lo-fi mix, with Clouse essentially out-heavying them all. A proper bowel-emptier.

'Girl Close Your Eyes' from Some People Really Know How To Live (2017)

Here we have one of Shit And Shine's rare mellower moments. It's the penultimate track on Some People Really Know How To Live, other cuts from which were described by Brendan Telford in these pages as "Ween-meets-Mr Oizo" and reminiscent of "a man-sized Energizer rabbit suffering seizures in stop-motion." It's not exactly William Orbit and the looped vocals sound more sinister than seductive. In contrast to its surroundings, however, 'Girl Close Your Eyes' is all silk sofas and velvet curtains. As with 2015's Everybody's A Fuckin Expert, this album was released by Peter Rehberg's Editions Mego label. Clouse considers this fact to be his own single greatest achievement to date: "That meant everything to me. In no way did I feel worthy enough to be involved with Editions Mego. My absolute dream label. Peter was brave enough to take a chance with my music and that boosted me in so many ways. It gave me the confidence I had always lacked. I figured if my shit was good enough to be released on E-Mego then, yeah, I must be doing something okay. I was just about to send Peter new music to consider for a third LP release but [in July 2021] he suddenly passed away. The world of 'out-there' music took a huge loss. [There is] nobody like Rehberg."

'That's Enough' from That's Enough (2017)

We've already mentioned jazzman Louis Balfour and, would you believe it, this classic S&S epic opens with dialogue from a different Fast Show skit. It's taken from a sketch known as 'The Garden Party' which begins jovially, quickly takes a nightmarishly existential tone, and ends with a reference to An American Werewolf In London instead of supplying a punchline. It sets the scene suitably for remaining dense and minimalist rumblings. "I'm always on the hunt for a good, creepy, repetitive riff that works over time and doesn't do much," explains Clouse. "Thankfully, Rocket Recordings got what I was doing." Before this 20-minute monster draws to a close, listeners of a more nervous disposition may find themselves shouting out the song title in a vain attempt to make it stop, while clasping the nearest cushions to their ears. The second track on the EP ('The Worst') samples Evil Simon Cowell having a go at some poor chancer.

'You Were Very High' from Very High EP (2018)

Clouse describes this funky mash-up of Prince, Steely Dan, Black Sabbath and Rihanna as being ("maybe") his favourite out of all his recordings. He credits Diagonal Records for pushing him in this electronic, techno-tinged direction: "Oscar Powell encouraged me to 'make something sexy', so I did my best. Sampling and looping Steely Dan was a very good move. I got a lot of mileage out of that. I'm not sure Steely Dan would approve but, ehh, so what?" As for Rihanna, many of us S&S-heads are desperate to know what the Barbadian superstar made of this tribute. So far, her lips have been sealed. Or have they? A 2020 post on her official Twitter account showed Rihanna taking part in the #SlipShineLipstickChallenge. How many times can you say "slip shine lipstick" in a row without plunging into tongue-twisted gibberish? "By the 3rd time," she wrote, "it turns into all kinds of Ship Slime-Shit Shine madness!" Cynical cosmetics promotion or coded shoutout to Clouse and his disciples?

'Goat Yelling Like A Man' from Goat Yelling Like A Man (2020)

Since You're Lucky To Have Friends Like Us from all those years ago, the Riot Season label has played host to many of Shit And Shine's gnarliest recordings. In 2020, Clouse was back at his spiritual home once again, this time with an album that seemed determined to out-sludge the likes of Melvins and Eyehategod. "Again, and I'm sorry it's not more complicated, but I found something on YouTube, when searching for vocals, titled 'GOAT YELLING LIKE A MAN', which is exactly that," explains Clouse. "It sounded great. I slapped some heavy riffs behind the dialogue and – BOOM! – a song and LP title were born." So, the next time you're tearing out your own hair due to the unfathomable popularity of unboxing exclusives, ASMR tinglers, conspiracy disseminators, a grown man who calls himself PewDiePie and that skin-headed nerd with the decidedly dull music reviews, remember this: we can at least thank YouTube for these ten minutes of grimy guitar grindings complete with the unsettlingly satanic sound of screaming goats. All hail Clouse!

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