[1 June 2007]
PopMatters Music Reviews Editor
Glasgow, Scotland dancers Shitdisco are a party band.
Exhibit A: As legend has it, the band grew its fan base by performing at free parties they held in drummer Darren Cullen’s flat, a place that locally became known as “61.” While the flat itself could only hold around 250 people, their free parties and performances would sometimes draw upwards of 400 people. Naturally, Cullen was evicted in 2006 after three years of one constant party, and was even almost slapped with a hefty lawsuit after his landlord saw all of the damage done to the place. The band has since made no secret of their desire to perform at all house parties they may come across during the tours they manage to get on.
Exhibit B: During one of those tours, the NME New Wave Tour with Klaxons in 2006, the now infamous Cullen reportedly fell from the roof of the band’s tour bus, breaking his right wrist. This injury subsequently forced an operation on Cullen’s hand and the installation of a metal plate where the damage was done. And remember, he is the drummer. This became a problem as the band was in the process of recording their debut full length album Kingdom of Fear at the time. Because of Cullen’s injury, European electro-pop mainstays the Prodigy’s live drummer, Kieron Pepper, was brought in to fill the duties on “Fear of the Future” and “Dream of Infinity”, two songs that appear on the record.
Again, Shitdisco is a party band.
Their biggest display of that all-fun, no-sad-face approach comes within exhibit C: that debut album mentioned earlier. While it only took them two sessions to record (the second of which was with Pepper), Kingdom of Fear is everything the band seemingly stands for—parties, dancing, mindless indulgence and fun. The only problem with that is sometimes those priorities don’t produce the best music.
Kingdom of Fear’s lack of diversity and the band’s overuse of the fine line that is repetitiveness make this highly anticipated debut album come up a bit short of being memorable. While they are obviously trying to take you back to the new-wave era of the 1980s as a whole, Shitdisco manage to stop the train somewhere in 1986 and decide not to move any further. Songs like”3D Sex Show” and “Disco Blood” begin by suggesting that a storm is on the way, but end after only a drizzle. Though they are completely dance-tastic, they don’t seem to move from the one chord they begin the song with. This makes a three-and-a-half-minute party seem like it is approaching 4 a.m.—18 minutes after you walked in the door at 11:30.
That attitude doesn’t evolve on the album’s opening track “Kung Fu” or on “Dream of Infinity”, an awful attempt at straying from what they do best (dance). If there was one song the lads from Glasgow should not have started their introduction to the world with, it was certainly “Kung Fu”. This is the only time in their short career the band crosses the line between mindless fun and stupidity. Then on “Dream of Infinity,” Shitdisco’s attempt to produce a radio-friendly track, the band seems awkwardly out of its element while performing a song that would have been better left on a D-side.
Despite all of that, there are some noteworthy bright points on Kingdom. “Lover of Others” is aggressive enough to make sure your attention doesn’t branch off too far and fast enough to suggest that Cullen, when he’s not injured, is a pretty good drummer. “Reactor Party”, the only song of theirs that charted in the UK (at 73), really does take you back to the glory days of ‘80s pop music. Its low-fi production and extraordinarily catchy hook and guitar line make the song resemble the Talking Heads backing the Cure’s Robert Smith. The Smith vocal resemblance makes Kingdom of Fear seem more authentic; that’s something to be valued, considering we are almost 20 years removed from that decade of dance.
A good new-wave pop band in the 21st century can always be refreshing. But, even at their best, Shitdisco aren’t good. They are mediocre. And that’s why Kingdom of Fear doesn’t live up to even half of the hype their parties created. But that’s OK. They make it apparent that they really aren’t too worried about being your new favorite band. They just want to be a band that makes you move. After all, remember: they are a party band.