NATALIE’S PARTY, NME, JULY 1999
It’s crushing that four men in their 30’s with nearly two decades’ recording experience behind them are the most exciting, youthful and refreshing guitar group in the country right now, but them’s the facts. Nobody writes more affecting songs than Michael Head and nobody invests the same wit and vim in their music than his group. Just about everyone else is a muppet in comparison.
So why not buy their records, eh? Buy this single. In fact, buy both versions and you’ll have four b-sides that are better than any a-side reviewed elsewhere on this page (Puffy excluded, natch). The a-side is an authentic rootsy ode to an evening of debauchery in the country, one of those nights when you travel so far out of it, you actually arrive at a point of clarity.
COMEDY, NME, 29 MAY 1999
If all goes to plan, they’ll be no more rewarding rock story in 1999 than Michael Head finally enjoying the success his enduring gifts have long demanded. Comedy marks phase one of Shack’s first concerted bid for fame on over a decade, a wonderful ballad of love and resilience in the face of ludicrous fate. The wit and wisdom of Head’s voice is softened by wraith-like Simon and Garfunkel harmonies, brother John carves out pungent, psych-folk guitar spirals all over the place, and even the overbearing attention of an orchestra imported direct from one of Embrace’s gruesomely syrupy epics cannot quite spoil a song of rare and fragile dignity.
This year’s ‘The drugs don’t work’, he said optimistically.
AL‘S VACATION, MELODY MAKER, 18 MAY 1991
The La’s with wit, speed and – if you can imagine it – brains; There She Goes for people who like their jangling semi-electic singsongs dished up with a degree of warped intelligence and urbane good humour.
Led by Michael Head, formerly of fondly remembered Pale Fountains, Shack have mercifully scrapped all previous intentions to be third-division Roses copyists (see their last single), and have decided instead to be first-rate, old-fashioned pop strummers. If you’re one of those diseased individuals who, like me, continues to hold out hopes of a Haircut 100 reunion, Al’s Vacation will dull the pain. Use it like asprin.
AL’S VACATION, NME, 11 MAY 1991
Y’know when they say all these other Liverpool bands sound like the Beatles and they don’t? Shack actually freakin’ do!! Recorded and mixed on an original 60’s EMI desk taken from Abbey Road studios, this is effortless brilliance. All acoustics and tricky little chord bits, with a middle eight like Simon and Garfunkel, this is a sit in the park on a Sunday and weird out kinda record. Features an original scratch on the record that makes you think your record player is knackered for a split second. The B side has the wondrous lyric Remember sitting in front of the telly eating sarnies? Purely for that I applaud it.
I KNOW YOU WELL, NME, 11 AUGUST 1990
Big, Boisterous sound from ex-Pale Fountains sorts Shack, bringing together The Beatles and The Byrds for a summery spurt of heart-jumping basslines and deafeningly crisp jangles. All fine, yet one suspects that their breezy deliberations comprise a musical puzzle too sophisticated for Joseph Instant Mash Public to endeavour to solve. Smart arses rarely shift units, basically.
I KNOW YOU WELL, MELODY MAKER, 28 JULY 1990
The terminally neglected Liverpool supreme trad songwriting unit return with a neat slice of boogied-up Revolver-ish Beatles pop. All chiming guitar and compressed bass, but, hey, wasn’t that bass treatment just a 60’s production trick to make records sound good on tinny trannies? And don’t all the kids listen to pop on giant, double-decker scale boxes now? makes this seem a bit nostalgic – nostalgic for a time when this kind of subdued pop song had a better chance of chart action.
HIGH RISE LOW LIFE, NME, 16 AUGUST 1988
The supposed Liverpudlian knack for writing great melodies has been in little evidence over recent years so this single is most refreshing. Shack have a history behind them – The Pale Fountains were perhaps the ultimate should’ve beens of the early 80’s. High Rise Low Life is a sorry tale of suburban gloom couched in a lovely tune. Images of crumbling tower blocks set against a brilliant red sunset. This won’t take Michael Head and gang into the hit parade but it should only be a matter of time
HIGH RISE LOW LIFE, SOUNDS, 1988
Repulsive, and we don’t mean that in a good way. Lloyd Cole fronts the Christians with predictably nauseating results. If William Rodgers ever dared make a single it’d sound like this. You don’t remember him? You won’t remember this lot either. For all the same reasons.
EMERGENCY, SOUNDS, 7 MAY 1988
Lilting, socio-realistic Liver pop, Emergency settles on TV detector vans as the unlikely symbol of everything that is wrong in the world. Produced by Mersey stalwart Ian Broudie and gutsily sung by former Pale Fountain Michael Head, Shack are more than tough enough. It will get to you.
EMERGENCY, NME, 11 APRIL 1988
Shack are wordsmiths. That is they’re possessed by an inveterate, incurable and bizarre urge to make everything they say rhyme. This ugly abuse of language invariably results in nit-picking pedantry and Emergency is a fine example of a song whose meaning has been all but lost in this ridiculously rigid discipline.
Initially we considered it a protest against TV licence fees, but we were thrown by the coupling of suicide and five-a-side. That smug git, Lloyd Cole, has a lot to answer for.
EMERGENCY, MELODY MAKER, 1988
Mike Head’s massive trad songwriting talents are aired on Shack’s debut single. Meshing TV documentaries, MORI polls and first hand experience of the media-reported issues, over a guitar-strung melody, Shack prove there’s life in such a time-worn genre yet.