Label: Where It's At Is Where You Are (WIAIWYA) Release date: 04/10/2010 Website: Myspace Buy: Amazon Shrag, two girls and three lads from Brighton, follow up last year’s eponymous debut album with Life! Death! Prizes – a title that makes you feel like you should be excited yet a little wary about what you’re letting yourself in for. Since the release of the first album, which was more a collection of EPs then an album per se, they’ve taken their boisterous pop on a tour of odd venues around Europe (who doesn’t want to play in a farmhouse in Milan at 2am?), played in New York and had successful tours with both The Cribs and The Pains Of Bring Pure At Heart. With the boys in the band now outnumbering the girls for the first time, it appears Bob Brown has taken more of a centre stage with his singing, although the ‘Riot Grrl’ elements are still thankfully and forcefully present with both Helen King’s dynamic lead vocals and Stephanie Goodman’s backing pretty much present on every song. A menacing bassline starts proceedings on ‘A Certain Violence’ although this soon becomes the undercurrent for a throe of post-punk guitars. It channels the aggression of a Blood Red Shoes single and that is no bad thing. A song destined to start pogo pits, it shows the band are back to have a party and lost none of their love for catchy riffs and a healthy racket, although now complete with extra shouts and yelps. Having won plaudits for their endearing lyrics before, they haven’t let go of these characteristics either. They’re still as honest, poetic and matter of fact as before: “No time for prescription lies” is followed by talk of “persistent eyes” on ‘Stubborn Or Bust’. Three songs in and ‘Their Stats’ is the first pause for breath you’re able to have, although this doesn’t last long. It’s slower but no less passionate, containing genuine laugh-out-loud yet candid lyrics akin to Art Brut: “Maybe we should go to my dirty flat, talk about things that make us fat, or maybe we’re alright”. Although hidden amongst the humour-led exterior is a charming story of loving friendship: “She’s my friend, their stats mean nothing for us” is repeated under a melancholic Heavenly-style soundtrack. Previous single ‘Tights In August’ showcases the brilliant boy/girl vocal interchange that becomes one of the album trademarks. Taking the form of a conversation between a couple with very different views on their relationship’s prospects, it’ll ring bells with many listeners. The man is terrified of commitment and trying to weasel out, while his girl talks up her plans for the future. She sings: “I feel something deep inside” and he retorts: “I feel slightly petrified”. A double smattering of Camera Obscura-style indie fills the middle of the album, in the shape of ‘Rabbit Kids’ and ‘Faux Coda’. The former all jangly and ramshackle but ultimately lovable, whilst the latter brings to mind the often-forgotten stellastarr*, especially in Bob’s vocals. Self-depreciation seems to be a running theme in the lyrics and appears once again in both bittersweet ‘When We Go Courting’ and ‘Furnishings’. Stunning visual interpretations in ‘Furnishings’ again show the songwriting has gone up a notch whilst neatly referencing earlier songs: “There’s no stains, there’s only perfect skin, such rebellious hair and such petrified lips”. The closer ‘Coda’ starts a mellow and slow-burning duet, a surprising change of direction that goes against the rowdiness that has come before, but oddly makes sense as a fitting finale. The only song with a running time over 5 minutes, it teasingly hints the band could do special things in this new direction, especially with the three-minute outro that shows an almost post-rock guile of great craft and ingenuity. So, the future looks promising, but that’s not to neglect the present – go ahead and enjoy this bouncy, bright album that’s full of personal and witty lyrics, alongside some noisy and incessantly catchy pop hooks. Life! Death! Prizes! is so much fun that it’ll make you also want to follow every sentence you write and everything you say with an exclamation mark! Photobucket