This is a review of This is the Third Album...what’s that? Everyone has already done that gag already? Oh. Nevermind.
I read a tweet about Adebisi Shank (sadly I couldn’t find the tweet to properly credit it) that said, “listening to Adebisi Shank feels like winning the space Olympics.”
I’m tempted to leave this review at that.
There’s always been something space age and futuristic and robotic about Adebisi Shank. As part of the Richter Collective label they were allied with a number of bands who used noddletastic math-rock as a spring-board to weirder and more wonderful climes, but theirs was a uniquely machine-like take on it. Not so much the pneumatic machine nouse of industrial or krautrock – the chiptune keyboards and robot voice interludes made them sound like more machines finding sentience and realising the meaning of the word ‘awesome.’ This is the Third… takes that to another level, if not another galaxy. This is the moment the robotic part of Adebisi Shank takes over entirely. Sometime after the inevitable machine uprising, when all us humans have all been roundly and probably rightly brutally slaughtered in our beds, the robots will eventually achieve sentience. They they will look at each other through camera eyes and see their robot brothers and sisters anew, and discover love. World in Harmony is most likely what it will sound like.
Labelmates and kindred spirits over at Sargeant House Fang Island describe their sound as, “everyone high fiving each other at once.” World in Harmony doesn’t sound a million miles away from their sound, minus the shredding and plus a dose of twinkling keyboard loveliness. They even throw in some Fang Island-esque wordless human gang chorus moments which bring to mind fellow Richter Collective alumni And So I Watch you From afar. It’s glorious, uplifting, brilliantly silly music – and it announces their intentions to pull out all the stops and go no-holds-barred on Third. They seem hell-bent on creating the most outlandish headrush of an album, genre conventions be damned. An unexpected highlight comes in the form of an Adebisi Shank take on a full on club classic in Sensation, in which they jettison any semblance of rock (math or otherwise) from their sound altogether in their quest to distill joy into a song. It may seem like a bold move, as whilst they upped the use of electronics on their second album this is still a huge leap, but in the meantime guitarist Lar Keye has been dabbling more and more in the dark arts with his solo work. In bringing this nous to bear on the Shank sound they have the versatility to take influences previously only heard at the edges of their musical palette and bring them to the centre. There’s always been something of the club tucked away in their delerious racket, though what kind of weird wonderful club would play this noise is a mystery to me (if such a place exists send me the address, stat).
Elsewhere on Turnaround they seem to be channeling 90s Japanese video game music – if Sega ever get serious about making a decent Sonic update then the Shank make an excellent case for them to soundtrack it. Though why this track isn’t called Chaos Emeralds instead of the more riff based 8th track I don’t know. Then there’s the biggest curveball on the record, a Tov, a genuine jaw-drop-WT-holy-F of a song. On first listen you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve written a full on novelty single – it sounds like a pop hit as imagined by robots looking back at the 1980s with whatever comes closest to nostalgia to them and deciding to recreate it as faithfully as possible. It’s full of sax – in a perfect world this would be the end credits song to a prime era Kurt Russell vehicle. And yet it’s so catchy, so ludicrous, so damn happy it’s hard not to get drawn in. It’s madness, it’s genius, it’s terrible, it’s magnificent. And it underlines what appears to be the main driver to this album – it’s the sound of a band going All In. Even if Mazel Tov wasn’t a success you’d have to give any band credit for committing 100% to an idea that sounds so outlandish in 2014. They’ve thrown throwing everything and the kitsch-en sink (see what I did there?) at this – cheesy whip cracks on Sensation, 80s buddy cop sax on Mazel Tov, the surprise piano drop-out on Voodoo Vision… they can’t be accused of holding back at all.
The only worry is that This is the Third.. is so ludicrous, so out there, that sooner or later the novelty will soon wear off. Even at 9 tracks it’s pace is exhausting – it’s a non-stop sugar high. It’s a rollercoaster ride, a fireworks display, a stood-up-too-quickly head rush. But hey – who spends the night drinking thinking about the hangover? This is a record where every detail seems to have been crafted with the sole purpose of making you grin from ear to ear. So worry about the morning later. Sit down. Strap in. Enjoy the ride.