When I saw The Shits, Leeds UK, grime merchants, new album You’re A Mess described in the promo pool with the phrase ‘Amphetamine Reptile punk take on The Stooges’ my curiosity was quipped enough form me to throw my hat in the ring for the opportunity to see if that description is accurate. Well, I’m here to confirm that yes, You’re A Mess, The Shits second full-length, definitely evoked the primal, garage punk energy of The Stooges, but as if it was recorded and released by AmRep in the early ’90s.
I’d also mix in a healthy dose of UK post-punk, as well as a pinch of Godflesh-esque UK industrial nihilism into The Shits sonic stew. As well, there’s a permeating mission of bludgeoning the listener with repetition, as they often find themselves riding the same riff relentlessly throughout many of the eight tracks.
Opening with the tense, slow build of In My Hotel Room, which invokes some real unsettling vibes as they slowly build a UK post-punk-ish riff, to a harrowing, claustrophobic climax, as cascades of noise and riffs rain down upon the listener. However, we’re just getting started as The Shits literally attempt to pulverize their listener’s eardrums to pulp with the sheer grating repetition of Waiting.
While the track possesses a killer main riff, it had me alternately banging my head and reaching for the pause/skip track button as I felt my mind might literally explode from the same riff played over, and over, and over again. I actually tried at one point to count how many time The Shits pound the fuck out of the riff but lost track after thirty-something. The title track, You’re A Mess, opens with a nasty, grimy, bassline, and some dirty sounding lead work, as The Shits do keep the repetition going here, but the track is just diverse enough, and the post-punk tone killer enough, that it did not make me want to smash my iPod.
a truly grimy, unsettling, threatening, repetitive-riff-pounding…
The Venus (After Hours) brings the riff-hammer back in vicious sounding fashion as they lean into the aforementioned industrial Godflesh style, sounding much more ominous than anything that could be considered ‘garage’ rock. I can’t think of a better song title for the next track than Bludgeoned To Death as again The Shits attempt to do just this, but with the fury of their tireless, endless, repetitive riffing, and angry, borderline unintelligible lyrics. We do get a nice bass breakdown, and some squalling lead work, long enough for the listener to catch their breath.
Alone ll is some truly nihilistic, misanthropic nastiness, as The Shits endless riffing smash the listener into submission, while the penultimate Ugly, Worthless, is sequenced perfectly, as it gives the listener a slight audio reprieve, that, while repetitive, delivers some killer, driving, post-punk filth. Closer, I Regret Nothing (Parts 1 & 2) sees them back to pummeling their listener into unconsciousness with the same riff for over three minutes, before dropping into a killer, driving, breakdown, that while repetitive, generates enough emotion, and is accented by some killer lead flourishes, to really make the track feel like a sonic journey, and in doing this, also serves as a killer album closer.
Try as I might, and I scoured the internet, I could not find the names of The Shits members, or their respective instruments, outside of vocalist (?) Callum Howe. This sucks, as it’s difficult to give praise to, where praise is due if I don’t know what musician is doing what. There are six members, and collectively they do possess a pretty nasty sound.
I found You’re A Mess to be simultaneously a killer, unique record, and maddeningly annoying. The riff-bludgeon was hard to handle at points, especially on Waiting, and The Venus (After Hours) and I found myself skipping the tracks halfway through a few times while listening at work. Nonetheless, mission accomplished, as The Shits have delivered a truly grimy, unsettling, threatening, repetitive-riff-pounding, that while familiar in places, is unique enough of a sound and approach that I found aural comparisons, while there, mostly invalid. If you’re in the mood for a pounding, nihilistic take on punk rock, then You’re A Mess is the album for you.
Scribed by: Martin Williams