Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 11 Nov 2019
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Latest in the seemingly unending list of wannabe comeback artists, here's a second eighties band that many remember for their contribution to the Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure soundtrack. I reviewed the new Tora Tora album in February, so now it's time for the first Shark Island album in the thirteen years since Gathering of the Faithful, which resulted from vocalist Richard Black's prior attempt to resurrect the band. The album before that was Law of the Order in 1989.
It's certainly not a bad effort either, though it aims more at the sound of the eighties than Tora Tora went for and hits less often. Make a Move opens up proceedings in a way that makes us question if Shark Island ever went away. It's a strong, if unsurprising, rocker that would have been an easy single choice back in the day. It's followed by Fire in the House, which is a stalker of a song in the Kiss style, even if it doesn't remotely like Firehouse.
It's track three where we arrive much more up to date. Policy of Truth is a Depeche Mode cover, done with some real weight. The guitars are very low in the mix and the bass (and the bass drums) very high. It's an engaging cover, albeit one that took me a while to get used to. It feels rather out of place until I remembered that it's not 1987 and my mind opened back up again.
My favourite song may be the next one, Aktion Is, though again it took me a while to get used to it. It kicks off with drums that sound very electronic and so provide the song with an odd feel for a while. Is this Robert Palmer? Is it the Bangles? Is it some modern remix of an unreleased T Rex song? It does find high gear eventually and rocks out in true LA hair metal style.
From there, things turn into a mixed bag. Some songs leap out immediately, like Rocks on the Rocks, which benefits from an AC/DC feel at the back end, that tight and incessant drive forward. Maybe it's more the Cult, as that's apparent elsewhere in more than the rhythm section. Some are enjoyable but never seem to quite shine the way they're supposed to, such as Crazy Eights. There are songs I could have done without, like the ballad, On and On, that really does go on and on as it closes out the album until a guitar solo does a little to save it.
There are songs that grow with each listen, like Butterfly, which felt like it was out of control until it came into focus on a second or third try. And there are songs that haven't found that focus yet. I'm not sure why I don't like When She Cries, because I like a lot of what happens within it and I'm not unappreciative of the rest. I think it's over-ambitious with details to the detriment of the song as a whole.
The result is that there's good stuff here but it's in small pictures rather than the big one. I'm unsure that I can recommend this new Shark Island to you because this album doesn't tell me who they are or what they're trying to accomplish. I can certainly recommend some of the songs here but that's a different thing entirely. It seems to me that the band have a hundred ideas and they've tried to cram them into eleven songs. Some of them work but some of them don't and going with eleven of those hundred ideas may have been a better choice.
Assuming that they stick around for a while, and past history suggests that they may not, I'd be interested in hearing their next album. Maybe they just need some time to gig around, realise what works and what doesn't, and focus in on a follow up. It could well be the album that this isn't.