1988 : SHACK - MELODY MAKER, JULY 23

“I think I’ve become a better songwriter since The Pale Fountains. I’ve got the balance between the music and the lyrics right. When we were with the Paleys we’d moved down from Liverpool to London. We were having all this grief with Virgin and it was starting to become a bit of a day job. When I look back on it there was nothing to write about. When I got back to Liverpool I had more time and space. I felt closer in touch with what it was I had in the beginning.”

Mick Head, late of The Pale Fountains and now frontman for Shack is a much chastened man. Somehow he’s managed to shrug off the massive critical abuse that caused The Pale Fountains to run dry almost two years ago, he’s picked himself up, unturned a social and ecological conscience that even he didn’t know he had and rediscovered that big thing called LOVE. Shack’s debut LP Zilch positively bubbles with it- not the girl meets boy kind you understand, but a deep rooted sense of caring in the face of society’s headlong rush into selfishness.

“I think over the last few years people have become more aware of where they’re living and what they’re living in, I know I have. People are worrying about what’s gonna happen in the next few years so they’re starting to value things more. On the album there’s a lot of my values but they’re tied up in the characters in the songs.”

And of course love’s back in fashion at the moment- ask Roddy Frame.

“Yeah, I think at the end of the day everybody’s into it but I think people were scared to sing about it for a long time. I sort of jumped in the deep end with the Paleys. I didn’t really concentrate on my lyrics and people used to say why aren’t your lyrics about the inner city and all that. The truth is I was brought up in all that so I was trying to escape it.”

Shack leave behind the airier conceits of The Pale Fountains nailing down their galaxy of shimmering emotions to this world and in some cases one city – Liverpool. Head’s songwriting has changed as his home town has. Gone are the almost psychedelic whimsical intrusions, now Shack stand weeping in front of the mirror picking and prodding at the city’s greying complexion.

“There’s nothing at all happening in Liverpool right now. There are no clubs, no small labels like there are in London and Manchester. But it goes beyond music. There’s just this concentration on money and tourism and economics and it’s all just temporary.” Who Killed Clayton Square? with its images of terraced houses running for their lives as the city planners appear on the horizon is a case in point – a savage attack on a council that rips the heart out of the city leaving only a concrete block standing in the space left behind.

“Some of the things they do you just can’t forgive them for. Clayton Square was this huge gay community and it just doesn’t exist anymore. It was a beautiful place and they knocked it down and replaced it with a shopping centre. It looks pathetic.

“It makes me wanna cry when I’m going through places like Everton and I see how much they’ve ruined it.”

Continuing the theme Shack’s current single High Rise Low Life is a dig at the architects responsible.

“A lot of ’em have landed up in jail. There’s been loads of scandals. It’s been going on for years. One of ’em built a ski-slope and when you get to the bottom of it you’re just feet away from a motorway. The one that did that is in jail.”

Despite his rages Head says he’s basically happy. He’s learnt to live with the stupidity of daytime radio planners, has finally conquered his AIDS phobia and still thinks it’s a sin to have to pay for a TV license. He’s also determined not to make the same mistakes twice.

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Zilch (1988)
1. Emergency (listen)
2. Someone’s Knocking (listen)
3. John Kline (listen)
4. I Need You (listen)
5. Realization (listen)
6. High Rise Low Life (listen)
7. Who Killed Clayton Square? (listen)
8. Who’d Believe It? (listen)
9. What’s It Like… (listen)
10. The Believers (listen)