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coverpic flag New Zealand - Full Moon 247 - 10/16/16

Shayne P Carter
Offsider
Flying Nun Records

It's been a while since Straitjacket Fits, one of the noisier acts to come out of the late eighties Dunedin music scene, made their mark with Hail in 1990. Characterized by fine pop songs pickled in multiple layers of reverbing guitars, they stood out from their NZ peers (The Chills, The Verlaines etc.) with a darker spirit, maybe even gloomy at times. Since the 1993 break-up, front man Shayne P Carter has been busy doing rock-funk in the band Dimmer, before pursuing a solo career under his own name.

After being in the game for some thirty years, making another album might not be the most inspiring thing. However, learning a new tool as a vehicle to spark creativity and get out of habituated thinking and working methods, is a well known method in the general realm of innovation, as well as in the history of avant-garde pop music (ref. the endeavors of Brian Eno as producer, a.o.). And that is exactly what Shayne P Carter decided to do: To learn to play the piano, without any experience with the instrument from before, and center his next project around that.

The result is an album with a crop of strong songs in an unexpected musical landscape. Like the opener, "I Know Not Where I Stand" - hauntingly beautiful, with tickling chord sequences not normally expected in mainstream pop music. Quiet songs, with the piano, sparse drums and Carter's insisting voice at the center of attention. Still gloomy after all these years, and with much to offer.

Unfortunately, not everything is on that level. There are some sub-par cuts, like the closing "Carried Away" - typically the straightest songs, when sentimentality is taking over the ship, and the designation adult pop comes to mind.

But the big picture is that of a successful experiment - Shayne P Carter has obviously benefited from starting over with a new instrument. This is a record for those lonely winter evenings with a glass of single malt in your hand.

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You may also want to check out our Shayne P Carter article/review: We Will Rise Again.

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