Shipping News: Flies the Fields
Ten years back the mood of the Shipping News was as common as today’s indie-rock DJ nights; now SN’s baroque steeliness feels like a tonic. Thank Jeff Mueller’s spectral guitar and Jason Noble’s stoic bass; neither player sketches lines or figures in dense, run-on clusters of 10 to 15 notes when two or three suffice. It’s a toned-down approach to turned-on rock, and in the Flies the Fields the Shipping News bottles another slab of barely restrained damage, like a fighter who keeps his neck-snapping hand almost always cocked near his cheek.
And it’s another album of dark moods and feelings. Flies feels recorded and written in those delirious hours between 3 and 5 a.m., as if it took that long after waking to feel human again. An exhausted tango of guitar and bass slowly tighten during “It’s Not Too Late,” a crooked spine stiffening into good posture. Rolling percussion and shimmering guitar chords bloom to a full gallop in “Axons and Dendrites.” A simple pulse cuddles up against a snarling guitar in “The Human Face,” thinking it can wait out the tirade. And it does. The Shipping News teasingly rock cock-blocks, songs slowly swelling and then fading just before reaching eruptive moments, as if it was forever about to strike but never getting the nerve. It’s not coy, just sly, for when the Shipping News does uncoil—“(Morays or) Demon,” “Sheets and Cylinders”—you don’t see it coming. You just suddenly find the floor jumping at your face.