Shudder to Think No. 10, Archive Review!

11 Jun

MI0002543211Shudder to Think/Late 1990s: Fitzgeralds, Houston TX

Editor’s Note: This is a long lost unpublished review left for 15 years, for better or worse, in a box. I have since grown to appreciate late-period Shudder to Think, but I do believe this text offers a glimpse of my histrionic grappling with the band’s mutations, perhaps felt by others that gravitated to their earlier gigs too.

When Shudder to Think played in Houston last night, they were languid heroes, ebullient, possessed by their own ability to catch a slanted effusive phrase and plunder it over ebbing guitar licks. They are a clash between form and non-form, sweetness and melancholy, memory and desire, excess and simplicity. At least they used to be. That much seems to be changing.

Listening to them in 1989 was like looking at a Jackson Pollock painting for the first time. The rabid painter liquidated representational figures in favor of pure motion, thick muscled swoops of paint, and self-contained myth. Shudder’s music was slightly akin to this. Their music huddled in my psyche like an erotic hallucination disturbed by caterwauling vocals and tense haywire guitar. Their songs always felt sculptural, like works in progress melting in front of you.

They didn’t rely on conventions of late 1980’s by-the-numbers punk.  They expanded, fell back on themselves, and reinvented and mutated the punk ideal form. They took a high soprano voice, drove the free-association flowing vocals into a bulldozer guitar, then added a steady streamlined bass beat to make it slightly smoother on the ears.

It amounted to a partial solution to the dullness and ennui that overcame post-hardcore bands turned indie rock idols like the Lemonheads and Dinosaur Jr. While those bands swallowed MTV wholesale and quickly became taxidermized, Shudder swooped and stamped their blood into our chemistries. Unfortunately, most of that spell has worn off like an old wax job. Memories flake away: signs of musical duration and succession begin to flicker and fade.

To read the rest of the review, visit Left of the Dial here.

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