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The Shipping News | Flies The Fields (Quarterstick)
'Flies The Fields' illustrates the telepathic interplay that comes from a shared musical vision, with a presumption that the eight tracks here were recorded live emphasising that point. Newly expanded to a four piece with the addition of Todd Cook (The For Carnation), The Shipping News regulars Jeff Mueller, Jason Noble and Kyle Crabtree continue to explore the dynamics of guitar, bass, drums and vocals recorded with expected natural ambience courtesy of Shellac's Bob Weston.

Whilst not exactly the forgotten sons of Louisville and Chicago, The Shipping News have never risen beyond opening slot status in regards to their more illustrious neighbours, perhaps because they moonlight in bands of similar stature, operating in comparable if not identikit outfits like June of '44 and the more classically oriented Rachel's. Undistinguished vocals do little to elevate their identity, instead inviting further comparison with the likes of Bedhead or, as on The Human Face, early Karate but without the eloquence of a Geoff Farina at the mic. An un-credited (on the promo copy at least) female vocal adds a welcome dash of colour to the imaginatively named Untitled w/ Drums, and there's certainly enough variety across the remaining seven tracks to encourage multiple listens when the combination of bruising chords and more intricate exchanges become familiar and more satisfying that initial investigation may suggest. And in light of Slint and others reforming apace, The Shipping News sound is oddly both slightly out of time and surprisingly current.

Matt Dornan
February-April 2005

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