Music is like millions of small revolutions happening every hour of every day of every month of every year, in your head and in the heads of all the musicians in the world creating new music, each scrambling to find ways to say things that barely seem expressible before it appears, leaping from the imagination into the teeming, messy, viral world. Accepted or rejected or neglected, each revolution is claimed and compared by the faithful to every other revolution that’s ever been tested. Each revolution reveals universal yearnings, whether conscious or unconscious.
Music is evolution extending itself. Music is at once familiar and dangerous, built on top of countless layers of destruction. Genres like punk, hardcore, goth, and post-punk popularly return, on average, about every 8 to 10 years, to renew the franchise and upset the taste makers. Punk isn’t about being clever, nor is it just about aggression or spectacle. It’s necessary speech clawing its way toward whatever needs to be said.
Originally released by Mass Media Records on a very limited-edition vinyl pressing in 2014 and now reissued as a cassette by Resurrection Records, “Hand In Hand” by the Portland-based band Shadowhouse seems to spring forth fully formed as a polished post-punk throwback to the dark moods of Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen, and The Sisters of Mercy. It’s so close in kinship with these bands that you’d swear you’re back in the 1980s. But not so.
Even in today’s age, fractured by genres and sub genres, we get the music we need for the times we’re living in. Driven by the post-apocalyptic guitar lines and extraordinary voice of Shane McCauley, Shadowhouse renews the post-punk franchise by providing a time machine back to a sound and a feeling that at first listen feels more nostalgic than pioneering. But as the lyrics sink in, as the music swirls around you (you must play this record loud), songs like “Lonely Psalm,” “Toys,” and “Warning” demonstrate a stretching, searching quality that mark this record as something more than an imitation or homage to past times. “Hand In Hand” makes this a band to bookmark.
As a debut, the quality of this production, recorded in Portland and mixed in London by the punk tech masters at North London Bomb Factory, the energy of “Hand In Hand” invokes a raw, live performance in studio or in a small club. I have no idea how “Hand In Hand” was recorded, but engineers like to tame post-punk rockers into softer, more commercially mixed packages. If you’re unfamiliar with this impulse, compare the studio “Unknown Pleasures” by Joy Division with “Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979.” (Shane, call me! I want to write about how “Hand In Hand” was really made.)
The real test will be the next record from McCauley, Ashley Geiger (synthesizers), and Josh Hathaway (drums), to see how they will claim this space as their own.
The close ties of this band’s sound to Joy Division remind me of something the master revolutionary and immortal troublemaker Gandhi wrote, about being forced to work outside the oppressive boring mainstream of ideas and prejudices. He said first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
(All artist photos supplied by the band and used by permission. All rights reserved.)