Now, I don’t often do the whole crowd-funding thing, not due to any objection to the principle, I actually think it’s a great idea, but rather a tendency to buy things on a whim rather than planning my spending as I should (just ask my bank manager!). I did however, earlier this year, sign up to two, one was for the new Echobelly album, Anarchy and Alchemy, which arrived a few weeks later and I must say, beyond the first track was a bit of a disappointment, but from their page I followed a link to the crowd funding for a new Shed Seven album, which I also signed up to.
So, the weeks turned in to months and I confess I completely forgot about it, then I suddenly get an e-mail saying my CD had shipped, a few days later the package arrives and there’s the CD signed by Rick, Paul, Tom, Joe, and erm, Aldi? After such a long wait, there was a certain inherent irony in the name Instant Pleasures, but moving beyond that I had to remember how to operate the CD player (almost all music I buy these days is in an electronic format), and hear what Shed Seven’s first offering in 16 years actually sounds like.
A bit of background for the under-30s: Shed Seven were an indie/alternative band, had four albums, between 1994 and 2001, and whilst never quite reaching the heights of fame of their contemporaries, Oasis, Blur, Pulp etc. they sat very firmly in the upper tier, of the scene, and were generally known for consistency, with nary a poor album track, and certainly all four albums were solid offerings. And Chasing Rainbows was (in my opinion) one of the best songs released in the 90s of any genre.
Will album five hold up to that record? Well, I have to say my answer is a resounding “yes”. From the opening broken chords of Room In My House it’s instantly recognisable as the Sheds (I’m not sure if calling them the Sheds is a thing, but it felt right as typed it). It’s often interesting to see how a band evolves, and had this record been released just a year or two after Truth Be Told it would have flowed perfectly from where that record left off. This may be due to the fact that the band, despite not releasing anything for 16 years, have been performing live again for the past 10 years.
The pace slows a little with the third track, It’s Not Easy, which is a gentle, and calming piece with some haunting female backing vocals, this contrasts beautifully with the following track Said I’m Sorry, which has a funky little beat reminiscent of Disco Down (could be a handy little link into the new material for any Indie DJs reading). At over 5 minutes, Hang On To Yourself is the longest track on the record and is musically a little reminiscent of A Hole on Let It Ride. The album ends with three very strong songs, first Butterfly On A Wheel, a feel good song that wouldn’t have been out of place in the optimism of ’97, and is even slightly Smiths-esque, the middle of the three, People Will Talk is possibly my favourite, of the whole record, with a couldn’t-give-a-fuck, dare I even suggest punk-rock, attitude to social constraints – “People will talk, but it doesn’t matter much to me”. The album then finished with Invincible, comparable to Champaign Supernova (by Oasis for anyone that litterally has never listened to music) this is written to be a show-stopper without a doubt.
The inside cover is a blurred out picture of the Mona Lisa, which I think is some sort of comment on the nature of (modern) instant pleasures versus more traditional art, but I honestly have no idea, maybe they just couldn’t think of anything else to put there. The credits show the record is produced by Youth of Killing Joke fame, which is pretty cool.
Instant Pleasures is more Let It Ride than Change Giver/A Maximum High, but that feels natural as it was the way the band were heading before the split and the first two albums were very 1990s, whereas the latter ones much more timeless, which is an advantage almost two decades on. In the build up to the split BBC Radio 1 refused to play them, but I think in the modern era, radio has much less influence and if they play it right, Shed Seven could reach a new generation, and if not, well a sell-out December tour suggests enough of the old faces are still around to keep things interesting. I confess I was gutted when I discovered both Manchester dates had already sold out (Shed Seven at the Academy Friday and Saturday 22nd and 23rd of December feels like an amazing way to kick off the festive season), if you have a ticket, enjoy, while I will have to settle for having this album on repeat for a few weeks at least I’m sure.
Have a listen for yourself on the bandcamp player below…
You can buy the album here.