What's worse, the illusion of satiation or the illusion of movement? Etao Shin are one of the rare acts that works the second to some use while falling into the first category. A hastier minded me chalked them up to be yet another indie rock band who like Dino Jr. and SM (this sounds a lot like that other band…), but with some of that post-soukous guitar shit that seems to be making its way through every band that listened to Rise Above and Bitte Orca and thought that D. Longstreth's guitar work was on par with Karl Sanders (I fucking love Dirty Projectors, but hey it's not exactly The Faceless on terms of six string aggression). Luckily after spending a week or so, and a dozen or so spins, with The Shame Of Life, things are looking up to some degree, but how does it all pan out for the brief offering as a whole? Well, that's a discussion to be had.

The decision of what to make the first track on your release is the sort of problem that writers go through when writing a novel. Primarily dealing with an issue of hooking a person in, the benefits of having your strongest track begin is like having to run a marathon by sprinting only you're going to get tired and need to walk for a good portion while the buildup of fatigue and spent energy lessens its grip. Conversely, starting with the sort of songs that lend themselves as track 6 or 7 material (on the average 10 to 14 track disc, a breather song by most regards) can make your entire project fail to grasp the listener and submit the album to a destiny as a "grower" or "difficult to get into". Not true for all circumstances, of course, but egregiously relevant in most cases. Here, 'Byron' is the sort of thing that must be the opener by process of elimination. Is it the best of the three tracks Etao Shin offer up? Lord no. 'Salmon' gets that vote, all energy and short vocal incantations before eventually bursting with an instrumental outro that begs to be lengthened and buffed up with octave work while still being insanely catchy and a great example of the sort of release that can up the ante. Similarly, closer 'End of the World' has some of the band's best lyrics and some of their most nuanced playing, but suffers from faltering delivery. When, towards the end, "We can go to the edge of the world" gets repeated the singer's voice shakes and loses its footing as if unsure about the conveyed meaning of previous admittances of glue sniffing and ichthys living cum modern dilemma.

As difficult as it is to decide something as stupid and even banal as an opener, the main problem with Etao Shin resides in the songwriting and not the choice or even the production. Actually, I must give them some due credit on the production which is clean yet lively and not excessively compressed or swimming in effects, the sort of simple, effective mix that should be utilized more often for this sort of music. My main issue lies not with the instrumentals since they usually do a fine job of being efficiently interesting and yet non-obtrusive while the vocals are what shoot the affair in the foot for me. The lyrics stand as witty enough metaphors and observations ("The flailing will mark/A salivating shark/The chewed remains…" drolly opens the album after an instrumental statement of the verse) but the voice delivering them often falters and wavers next to tight playing and ends up coming off as sloppy in comparison. It's a shame that the melodies themselves are often uninventive rehashes of guitar licks already played (2/3 of the songs do this) or slightly caterwauling walkabouts through the proper notes and end up ultimately blemishing some otherwise fine musical goings-on.

Even after justifying every choice and spending plenty of time listening to this EP, I still fail to fully embrace the vocals. I admit that, and offer it as a caveat to all listeners. This strikes me as uncharacteristic and bizarre given my lenient and otherwise lengthy list of vocalists I enjoy who are way more off-key or even screechy than this. It's enough to make the experience a touch arduous and even numbing after a while and ultimately spoils the fun.

Photobucket