Shepherdess are from Boston, and this eponymous release is their first. But they sound like they could be playing back in 1997. This record recalls the days when Boston was at the top of the college rock heap, as band leader (and punk rock aerobics pioneer) Hilken Mancini composes songs full of wall o’ noise guitars and crashing drums. Mancini spends a lot of time here singing about meaning in everyday life. On the opener, “Who Wants to Be”, she poses the question, “Who wants to be having the sense to see nothing means anything?” Later, on “Anything”, the album’s strongest track, she figures “I could do anything / In a hundred years time, no one will think about it/ Why do I try?” That the band charges through this brief album seems to be the answer to such questions; we try because we can, because what else can we do? And because, finally, there are more moments that make us believe what we do (be it music or aerobics) has meaning. The best songs on the album, like the two mentioned above, bring the riffs fast and in droves, and can turn on a dime only to turn right back. Some other songs, like “Green Seat”, get sapped of their energy because they come off as too bratty for their own good. What makes this band a nice throwback is that they manage to avoid being reflexive, but the brattier moments on the album chip away at that authenticity. Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had on Shepherdess, even if the tacked-on cover of Dylan’s “Oh Sister” sounds a little flat and thematically disconnected. Part of the fun of the record is seeing the band try a few different things. And, sure, it may not all work, but when Shepherdess hits the mark, they hit it hard.
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