Many of the reviews that appeared in the wake of Theme From Kindness, predecessor to this, the fourth (natch) offering from power trio Shield Your Eyes, waxed confused at best, and at worst, downright appalled. The 405’s own James Canham slammed the record, calling it ‘avant-garde by numbers’, citing its ‘zaniness’, ‘over stretched and over tried vocals’, and ‘little nonsensical guitar flourishes’ as just some of the reasons for his ire – and all this from a reviewer who ‘fucking love(s) the experimental music scene’. Shield Your Eyes must be a particularly difficult band, no? Well, no, actually, I wouldn’t say so. The first thing that leapt right out at me (and I’ve only gotten the thinnest hair more adventurous about music since I first started paying attention to it) is how much goddamn melody the band manage to pack into their polymorphous, spunout jams. How lines like ‘call in dead baby, be my girl’ emanate an abstract tenderness that cuts right through those formidable, electrifying lead lines. In any case, Volume 4 could perhaps be the record to win over anyone alienated by Theme From Kindness’ unforgiving stance.

James also noted of Volume 4’s predecessor that ‘everything on (that) record screams of people almost dying to be different, to be new’. The same can certainly not be said of Volume 4, and this is in no way to its detriment. Whether intentional or unintentional, the little nod to Sabbath in the record’s title is kind of apt – Volume 4 travels backwards in time, encompassing the attitude and occasionally the sound of certain bands who weren’t constantly striving to change the face of music, but often kind of did by accident. The result is a record that often sounds something like Zuma era Crazy Horse jamming Cap’n Jazz songs, with the occasional genuine nod to the band’s professed blues influences, as in closer ‘schutze deine augen’.

Where …Kindness came to life in bassist Nick Bavin’s living room, Volume 4 was put to tape at an off-season hotel in Jersey, and the effect of all that empty space is easy to hear. Where before songs often sounded tinny and tightly wound, here they have room to breathe. So it is that whilst Volume 4 is perhaps more palatable than …Kindness, it feels healthily more like a happy by-product than compromise, especially with songs as strong as those present here. After the exhilarating two and a half minute instrumental squall that closes ‘Drill Your Heavy Heart’, ‘Glad’ comes over shockingly soft, a gently sad acoustic number more akin to Nick Drake’s bluesier outings than any of the more expected reference points. And where something like ‘You Merit High Hopes’ is still loud and clangy as fuck, and features the kind of breathtakingly busy broken beats that wouldn’t be too out of place on a jungle record, it exhibits that straight-ahead sense of melodic purpose that characterise Shield Your Eyes’ best songs.

Dissatisfied at consistently and incorrectly being lumped in with the South’s post-hardcore scene, Shield Your Eyes are making it ok to wig out again. Forget every preconceived notion you ever had about jam bands being boring and ostentatious – Shield Your Eyes have rarely failed to present anything less than thrilling (particularly live, so if you haven’t seen them yet, y’know, do), and Volume 4 is no exception, dumping all the attendant baggage of ‘experimentation’, and anything close to an At the Drive-In reference, along the way.