Published Oct 16, 2020Integrating grunge, noise templates and avant-pop approaches, Good Sad Happy Bad (the new moniker for an updated Micachu and the Shapes, named after their 2015 album) offer exhilarating rhythms and riffs, unshakable melodies and adrenalized ambient flourishes. While the band's reference points are evident, their seamlessly rendered eclecticism makes for a transcendent sound, a modish blend with the potential to win over a variety of listeners.
Following the opening track's instrumental cacophonies and tuneful breaks, tracks two through five of Shades unfold as pop gems, featuring buoyant melodies, exultant guitar-and-bass lines and horn-plus-synth noise interludes courtesy of CJ Calderwood. Raisa Khan's vocal is immediately and sustainedly compelling, her delivery, like that of Broadcast's Trish Keenan, paradoxically cerebral and visceral, detached and vulnerable, automatonic and seductive.
"This Skin" is driven by a repetitive yet riveting guitar riff that conjures side B of Nevermind. Calderwood's ambient flourishes appear and disappear, a tribute, perhaps, to John Coltrane's and Ornette Coleman's free jazz ventures. Khan's delivery, a droll mix of singing and speaking, may remind some listeners of Dream Wife's Rakel Mjöll. On "Reaching," Khan's vocal rises from a welter of distorted guitars, bass, and drums that brings to mind early Sleater-Kinney. "Bubble" is a return to avant-pop virtuosity. "Keep looking without / keep looking within you," Khan sings, juxtaposing New Age-ism and the satirical nihilism of neo-punk.
"It's snowing in August / and it's sunny at Christmas," Khan sings on the title song, a tongue-in-cheek stoner pop anthem about global warming. "Taking" is a jab at the Western world's dependency on pharmaceuticals: "This pill's for my blood / This pill's for my heart / This pill's for my trust / This one's for luck." The driving riff in "Universal" reinterprets Kurt Cobain's guitar part from Incesticide's "Dive," the song an apt closer, integrating noise, an impeccable melody, experimental instrumentation and Khan's grounded/grounding vocal.
Shades spotlights a band with diverse influences and the ability to cogently and cohesively re-contextualize them. Additionally, the album features one infectious melody after another, Raisa Khan emerging as one of the more intriguing voices of her generation. (Textile Records)