Island Complex
By One Giant Leap
Wednesday 31 Oct 2018 16:45:00
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Today is Sarah Hayton's birthday, a fitting day then to publish a review she recently penned of Island Complex LP by Shrug 2018, Our Mam Records. Shrug released their second long player earlier this year, after an-almost 30 year gap after their debut LP. Septober, Octember, Nowonder, on Our Mams/meantime in 1989. Most probably waiting for a vinyl revival.

Island Complex is the latest release from long-time popular beat combo, Shrug. The mighty Shrug is woven into Teesside life as much as James Cook, the Transporter Bridge and the parmo. Their 30-year history in indie music has seen the face of the region change. No other county has faced disaster down like Teesside, with boom and bust economics from London causing tidal waves up here, none moreso than its latest jape, Brexit, upon which this disk muses. Island Complex makes its way through the anxious themes arising from separation. Being all at sea, isolation, us versus them, salty tales of the unknown and of course, fish, all feature within its bold, exploratory vessel.

Take the killer opening track, Whitby Kipper, a barnstormer that pushes this LP out for an exciting trip, bouncing over crashing waves, but are we the eager tourists or are we Dracula, the monster? Bergerac, synonymous with island life, rues on the shock and sadness of separation and the potential permanence of this. Alien Autopsy gives us the notion of otherness. In discussing creatures that are not like us put on display like some sideshow, we realise that we are the other, we are making ourselves the exhibit to one side. Mentions of mummies, antiquities and other symbols of strangeness, are used to trigger curiosity and make money.

The album looks at layers of humanity from dense bones to ethereal spirits of the age. It examines us versus them, what it means to be an insider or an outsider, our propensity to reduce our fellow humans to jokes, to point and laugh. Themes also include the claustrophobia of being inward-looking, as in Christmas Kipper, where spreading a rumour in a small population can be fatal. The feeling of being enclosed is only increased in echoey spoken tales of mystery, narrated by Robert Nichols between the tracks, like you were sitting next to him in the wheel house, bobbing in a misty harbour, chatting.

Anyone who knows Rob will testify that football, and Boro FC in particular, are in his blood. Tracks like In The Offing and Hospital Ball give alternative takes on being outsiders, like adjusting to strange surroundings when your team plays an away match. Local friends, island dwellers and historical figures also lend their stories to the work, such as author Amy Liptrot and local artist Lydia McClure.

Alien Autopsy

(above Alien Autopsy by Lydia McClure)

The whole album is a perfect storm that whips up dozens of elements of north eastern life in a musical tour de force worthy of any explorer worth his salt. Who knows where they will land.

Sarah Hayton is a comedy and serious writer, an actress, satirist, film maker and can be seen hanging out most days at the Waiting Room restaurant in Eaglescliffe where she might even sere you your dinner. It is her birthday today on Halloween, perhaps this accounts for her 'wicked' sense of humour. She is undoubtedly a fine writer of all kinds of words.

You can listen and then download Island Complex at Shrug's bandcamp page and even buy the vinyl version.Click here



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