"WRITER'S BLOCK and common cold, the pointless fear of growing old...wearing cheap synthetic fibres with unspoken Western guilt". Add to that a crap cup of coffee "with your name spelt wrong" and you have...'First World Problems'.
This is the opening track of ¯\_(? )_/¯, Shrug Life's somewhat self-titled debut album, and it sets out their stall brilliantly. On the surface, a light hearted look at common complaints, but underneath lies a critique of complacency and resignation, as the song's chorus points out: "First world problems, aimless and passive...we've no patience to ever solve them." Musically this dissonance is conveyed by the song's jaunty jangle being brilliantly interrupted by a Pavement-esque freakout.
The album, by the Dublin trio of Danny Carroll (vocals/guitar ), Keith Broni (bass ), and Josh Donnelly (drums ), delivers on the critical praise which has seen Shrug Life called “Dublin’s premiere observers of the sterility of Irish modernity” (Broadsheet.ie ) and Carroll’s lyrics described as "some of the smartest and wittiest that the country has to offer” (The Thin Air ).
Indeed the album is peppered with great one liners and phrases: "The Mussolini of telemarketing" ('Temp Job' ); "No patriotic platitudes will pay the bills this month" ('Making Progress' ); "experience the placid moments, the fleeting glimpse of Irish summer" ('Aphra Lee' ); "We're never bored, always distracted, supposed to care how you've reacted" ('Never Bored' ), to select a few.
'Your Body' could also become something of an anthem for the Repeal the Eighth movement. With the darkest irony, it uses the motif of a holiday to represent the lonely journey undertaken by thousands of women, seeking an abortion in Britain. Its opening declaration, for many, will say it all: "Your body is not your body, it's the property of church and State", as will the closing verse: "if they stepped inside her skin...would the party line apply"?
Musically, while they stay within a sound that owes much to 1980s indie-rock and lo-fi, they do so brilliantly, and display a left-field pop nous. Indeed, in their humour, strong sense of melody, die hard punk and indie-pop aesthetic, and wry observations, they share much with Galway's So Cow. Yet they also reveal an unexpected twist to their sound with the impressive Afro-beat riffing of 'Never Bored'.
¯\_(? )_/¯ is released on September 29 via Jigsaw Records and Little L Records. Shrug Life play Strange Brew on Thursday September 28 at 9pm. Support is from Dott and Half Forward Line. Admission is free.