Shack has the reputation of being one of the most underrated and unluckiest bands during the Brit-pop explosion in the 90s. After Mick Head’s cult 80s jangle-pop group Pale Fountains disbanded, he enlisted the help of his brother John Head to form Shack. Both guitarists linked bassist Pete Wilkinson and drummer Iain Templeton as the rhythm section and began work on their debut 1988 debut, Zilch. Years before Oasis or Blur even formed, Zilch served as a barley known staple for future works in the genre. The story of their next release, Waterpistol, is legendary. The album was recorded at Star Street Studio in 1991, produced and mixed with no problems at all. Shack’s luck began to unravel when the studio burnt down, destroying the album’s master. Their luck turned for the better when producer Chris Allison revealed he had made a backup of the master tapes, but unfortunately he had left it in America when on vacation in a rental car. What followed was months of searching to find the tape with the cooperation of the rental car agency. Luckily, the band recovered the tapes although the losses were still evident as the excellent Waterpistol was not released until 1995. The band disbanded shortly before the release, with Wilkinson forming the successful Cast and the Head brothers fronting the briefly successful The Strands. Shack reformed in 1999 with a strong third album in H.M.S. Fable. Throughout the years, they have been known for their tremendously devout though small fanbase. The sales of their fourth album Here’s Tom With the Weather were minimal but it was a suave effort that solidifed the band’s consistency. Earlier this year, they released On the Corner of Miles and Gil with warm applause. Five albums in eighteen years may seem a bit uncharacteristic for a band of their straightforward pop genre, but the general opinion stands that all five have been very enjoyable.
Though it released in June, I just got around to listening to On the Corner of Miles and Gil this past month. It provides just what I expected: a warm diverse array of songs representitive of their thriving earlier years. From the bustling catchiness of ‘Cup of Tea’ to the acoustic ballad ‘New Day’, the album presents a boasting amount of strong songs. The songs ‘Tie Me Down’ and ‘Cup of Tea’ deal with the topic of how drug abuse can steer your mind off the path of success. This is particulary touching and effective coming from Mick Head, who suffered fatal heroin addiction. ‘Tie Me Down’ is their second single and it should give them more attention than that of which they’re used to. The band’s use of horns and brass is more than impressive, whether it be in the jazz feel of ‘Shelley Brown’ or ‘Funny Things’, which turns into a very pleasing jam session. ‘Finn, Sophie, Bobby & Lance’ borrows the intro of The Chameleons’ ‘Monkeyland’ with a haunting whir, followed by a head scratching quote from Peter Weir’s film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. The slow and ghastly synths used convey a sense of regret and horror, much like The Smiths did with ‘Suffer Little Children’. On the Corner of Miles and Gil was released on Noel Gallagher’s “Sour Mash” label, with Gallagher reluctantly admitting the band’s influence on his work. The album is another strong showing from a band who is often forgotten in the grand scheme and importance of Brit-pop and music in general.