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Shriekback’s Wildlife Park: Draw Your Own Conclusions

Lifted without regret from Shriekback's official Tumblr

BOSTON - The idea at first was not to play out; Shriekback, like the first edition of Public Image, Ltd., would simply be a studio group, leaving Gang of Four in the midst of an American tour. For Allen, it was too much of everything: too much drugs, too much drink, too much pressure.

Allen, who cheerfully says he is “on the wagon - permanently,” considered gigs dehumanizing: ”We said gigs are awful and they can’t work.” This was in early ‘81. A year and a half later, they played their first gig.

"It was gonna be hard work. It was a matter of transferring all this [studio] stuff to the stage," notes Allen, talking about the decision to make it live.

"It was a matter of fucking blind fear too," chips in keyboardist Barry Andrews.

So Shriekback - which in addition to Allen and Andrews includes guitarist/singer Carl Marsh and touring percussionists Pedro Ortiz and Martyn Barker - now has it both ways: they released their debut EP, Tench, on Y Records last year, have a new LP, Care, out on Warner Bros., and they’re enthusiastic about road work.


What makes these gigs work?

"A willingness to communicate," says Allen. "Tonight, for instance, was a good example of accepting that the audience wants to join in. A lot of gigs I’ve been to you’re left out. The other night in New York I went to Simple Minds and there was no attempt whatsoever to get me to join in."

"There’s some sort of interaction between us and the people," adds Andrews. "It’s surprising how few bands do that."

Shriekback is not the most obvious lot, not the latest happy-time English white funk band. Songs are written around a drum track. Allen adds the bass lines and the songs grow from there. Vocals - “anti-vocals” Marsh calls them - are often mixed into the middle, not over the top.

"There is a rule of thumb that all lead vocals have to be treated in a certain way because they’re vocals," says Marsh wryly. "Not like a little wanky percussion part that you can do what you want with. Voices have to be treated with some respect."

"Lined Up" is Shriekback’s catchiest tune (from melodic standpoint), but like New Order’s "Temptation," it’s involved as much with mood as it is with hooks. The rest of Care is even more moody. Shriekback favors sharp, heavy bass lines, chantlike vocals, the occasional textural synth or guitar swirl. Restrained, but tense; spacious. Shadowplay you can dance to.

"I’d kind of like it to be like a wildlife park," offers Marsh. "You wander around and there are all these things there that are diverse and beautiful and grotesque sometimes. You can draw the conclusions you like."

- Jim Sullivan for Record / August 1983

Care has been reissued on both CD - for the first time! - and limited edition vinyl LP.

Please visit our website and store to learn more about, and purchase Care, as well as find other great albums, tunes, and information.

Time is short, so don’t delay!


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