Music

Hearing Darwin

The Sonic Evolution of Shipping News

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Shipping News
Thurs April 19
Pine Street Theater

The family trees of indie rock bands read like those of people in the Ozarks. One guitar player is in bands A and B, and then drops out of band A to concentrate on B. Pretty soon the bass player wants to play more metal than band A, and joins metal band C. Eventually he is forced to leave band A because of the demands of band C, and band A is nothing but a tiny piece of what it started as. B and A must then get new members and a new name and become band D.

The Shipping News is a band born of many bands. Rodan spawned June of '44, June of '44 dissolved and generated Shipping News, and bunches of other bands arose from estranged members, almost all of the musicians staying in the biz. This practice of band restructuring and renaming, however, seems like suicide when one considers how much album sales have to do purely with name recognition (e.g. Incubus or Lit). So why do the musicians keep shooting themselves in the feet?

Just as people lose interest in a job that once excited them, musicians get sick of their bands. The screamy punk sound of Rodan was perhaps too harsh and thrashy to continue with indefinitely. And while June of '44 took up where Rodan left off, the sound mellowed distinctly with their later albums. Shipping News' music seems like the natural outcome of these two bands. They have a brand of music that, like punk, has indiscernable lyrics and jagged guitar riffs, but they're used sparingly to enhance the dark sound or delicately built climax of a song. Their instruments are dexterously layered so that the bass, drums, and guitar recess and explode at the same times. In many spots the sound leans towards an anthemy rock sound, with expertly manipulated guitar, that spirals downward into a quiet lull.

The evolution that produced Shipping News was one that couldn't happen in one day or one band. It's sort of like Darwin's theory that one day the conditions were right and out of some prehistoric sludge pool of punk, guitar rock, and experimentation came one tiny awesome band.

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