The Shikes – Aggression – EP Review
Dave Wirth, my man, you have certainly kept us all guessing as to what the heck it is you’re gonna do next over the years, and every time we run into your music again, you’ve completely gone & thrown yourself into a whole new dimension of your art, and all of us out here listening for a loop in the process! You beautiful man you – surprise is easily one of the best things about music bar-none to begin with, but Wirth good sir, you always seem to find a way to take it to the limits and do a full 180-degree turn around from what we think we might know, and stun is all over again with something entirely new & unique, totally different from anything we’ve heard from ya before. That’s a true gift folks.
Mind you, we don’t cross paths nearly enough to ever truly keep me satisfied – I will ALWAYS want MORE from this brilliant musical-mind…but I’m also certainly mighty thankful whenever this dude shows up with new tunes, and that this shape-shifter continues to excel in his craft overall, no matter what moniker he’s choosing to go by these days. Amazing how time flies and how much can change in that same span – I originally met Dave through an interview across the internet for his old band Sprightly Moans, published here on our site back on Christmas of 2013. How is it even possible it was that long ago already? Incredible. I probably had a whole lot less grey in my beard back then, but alas, surely still had this face made for radio attached to my neck as well. Anyhow! The history between us continued on throughout the years – I reviewed the Sprightly Moans Demos III EP long ago – and to be truthful, it still carries one of my absolute favorite songs he’s ever written, a balled called “Love Is Nothing Without Eternity.” It’s a song so etched into my brain & heart that I can recall its melody any time I choose to; that’s pulling it all the way back from seven years ago, from March of 2014 when I reviewed Demos III.
Then the dude seemed to disappear for a moment or two there. Though I’d continue to celebrate this guy’s incredible music through the SBS Podcast when it was being redesigned in 2016, it still wasn’t until the next year afterwards that we’d hear from Dave again with some new tunes in 2017 after being away from us for nearly four years! He came back inspired with a totally different direction than we’d heard him from the Sprightly Moans stuff, and dropped a sweet set of instrumental tunes on his self-titled album Flutters at the beginning of January, before lighting-up the amplifiers for a quick two-song EP called The Big Heavy towards the end of 2017 while he was still rocking under his own name solo. And then dammit, wouldn’t you know it – somehow, someway, this guy managed to hide himself away for yet another nearly four years from us. It’s a lot of history that’s actually packed into a fairly compressed amount of time…you know how it goes out there music-scene, you strike while the iron is hot, as they say, and when that inspiration hits, let’s be real here – that’s exactly when you’re all (well, SOME of you) out there doin’ your thing and being the most active on your pages & promo & whatnot. It’s only natural that some time is gonna pass between us all between this time & the next whenever we cross paths with any of you…but I dunnnnnnno Daver – I might just have to declare that four years is four too long after hearing this new EP by The Shikes.
This is madness. This is chaos. This is freakin’ SPARTA in the form of audibly digitalized mayhem!
And it WILL be a battle for many…at least to start. Don’t panic! You are going to feel like you’ve been strapped in for a ride you’re not ready for as “It’s Gone A Spring Song” starts…and that’s okay, it’s gonna be natural to feel that way, be cool man-dude/lady-friend, be cool. Just breathe through it, hold a yoga pose, or do whatever you gotta do to calm yourself from imploding, because if you miss out on the savage badassery of this song kickin’ in once you get past the sheer insanity of its Technicolor intro, you’re only doing your own ears a disservice & nothing more. I’m not even remotely kidding about the jarring effect the very beginning will have on ALL of you…that’s RIGHT, I said ALL, as in EACH and EVERY last one of you out there listening – you will be shocked at the amount of sound coming through your speakers when you push play on “It’s Gone A Spring Song.” As I mentioned earlier, this beard of mine’s got plenty of grey in it these days now…I’ve been around for a while, and heard a record or two throughout that time…and there are few that I could name, if any, that’ll punch your brain so squarely as this will straight away. It’s so akin to that feeling you get when you’re walking out of a movie theater (remember those?) in the middle of the afternoon sun & squinting & trying your best to simply focus in on your way forward – “It’s Gone A Spring Song” will attempt to completely blind your ears in the same way through an intentional onslaught & overload of sensory sound that WILL take you a spin or two to adjust to, and that’s completely by design. The Shikes draw an audible sand instantly with this first cut and how it’s revealed – you’ve either got the stones to be able to hang with this level of intensity and all-out madness in music, or ya don’t – and I suspect there’s no one out there that knows where that line is better than Dave, nor anyone so willing to cross it into a new realm of their own innovative creativity. Assuming you SURVIVE the first twenty five seconds without your best friends trying to snuggle you into a nice new white coat with very suspiciously long sleeves – you should in theory, find the rest to follow equally mind-blowing, just for a whole set of different reasons is all. Heading right into a barrage of gripping Indie-Folk/Alt-Rock – “It’s Gone A Spring Song” starts ripping along with the subtle intensity of the Foos when they’re right in the thick of the melody, or later in in the chilled grooves of QOTSA, and with all the electrifying rawness & realness that both bands put into the earlier tunes of their career. From the enormity of the drums, to the stellar harmonies that show up, to the incredible way that Wirth sings this song – everything stacks up to a vicious win through powerfully wicked sound coming atcha mercilessly from its very beginning to its amped-up final moments. If it seems like I’m going on forever about this first tune it’s because the effort & uniqueness warrant the words – this is how you CRUSH an opening and make an experience 100% memorable in just about every conceivable way I can think of.
“Sit, Think, Make, Say, Do.” “Person, Woman, Man, Camera, TV.” See Dave? I can do it too bro.
Okay – to be fair, he’s not exactly trying to perform a cognitive test here, so much as just come up with a clever title to represent this 1984-tinged second tune of three on The Shikes Aggression EP. I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this song. Admittedly, Dave doesn’t punch us so hard in the face on our way in through the door of this cut, allowing a much more subtle groove to guide him along while he demonstrates a mastery of melody & his well-crafted, multi-layered, poetic lyricism. In the words of “Sit, Think, Make, Say, Do” is where you’ll find no quarter is spared or punches are pulled; his lyrics may be short, they may be brief, but make no mistake, what he’s written here is highly effective and the way what he sings will cling to your bones afterwards only proves just how much of an impact The Shikes make with this track. Ultimately, this is one devious little tune that packs in a ton of thought-provoking words into the short span of less-than three minutes of time…and it’s addictive melody & chorus is likely one you’ll be shocked to find yourself singing later on around the house. It’s oddly uplifting, which is probably a direct correlation resulting from it sounding so damn good, but the further you dig into the words, the more grittiness you’ll find darkening the sunshiny sound below the surface. Wildly interpretive as well – chances are, listeners are going to come to all kinds of conclusions as to what this song is really all about, but at the same time, there’s no denying how much they’ll love it even if they don’t fully understand it, or even attempt to. The Shikes give you the opportunity to sing along here; whether you want to grapple with the full weight of WHAT you’re singing about, remains your choice as it always does. If you ask me, “Sit, Think, Make, Say, Do” reminds me a ton of Beirut from right around the…what was it…the March Of The Zapotec era where he started blending analog & digital ideas together, and retained the classic golden-era melody in the sweetness of his voice to pair with it – Dave’s digging into a similar mix here, and the results are absolutely stellar – this is pure audible gold.
I am honestly fucking ecstatic about what I hear on this record, pardon the ol’ language folks – but that’s the reality here – uniqueness is by far the most alluring aspect of music all-around, and The Shikes have displayed nothing but throughout all three tunes. Like, the closest you’re going to get to something you’d be able to call more straightforward or accessible is going to be the final cut at the end, “Trouble At The Heart Of Spring” – and if this is straightforward to you, believe me when I say, you and I can be friends. All I’m saying is that in terms of linear listening and the average everyday listener out there, chances are, this last cut is the smoother gateway into The Shikes without blowing their minds with too much wildness in one dose. In many ways actually, you could look at a track like “Trouble At The Heart Of Spring” as being that lost step that never occurred in the Radiohead catalog between something like Amnesiac and what eventually became The King Of Limbs…somewhere in between there, they’d have been proud to rock a multi-dimensional groove like this one without question. If it comes RIGHT down to it, I’ll concede that there’s probably more chance of the melody in the chorus of “Sit, Think, Make, Say, Do” being the ultimate hook & gateway for the people out there into this record, but considering its more dicey language & its many possible interpretations, I’d be inclined to go with the reliable groove he’s rockin’ on “Trouble At The Heart Of Spring” as the most likely candidate to represent the record. What I truly DON’T think, is that the man can lose with any choice he’d make – any of these songs should make a thunderous impact as they land onto your playlists & find a permanent place to reside. What you’ll hear on the Aggression EP is genuinely EXCITING – it has that authentically feeling of heading straight into the unknown, and you honestly can’t even place a value on just how incredible it is to listen to something like this record, filled with material that you’d never be able to remotely predict.
I almost hate to say it because four years away is so freakin’ long…but I’ll be damned if this wasn’t 100% well worth waiting for Mr. Wirth – you’ve absolutely outdone yourself in every possible way with these three cuts on The Shikes Aggression EP and created a sonic madness I am more than proud to stand behind, in front of, side by side & hand-in-hand with…you get the idea, I’m gonna listen to this forever.
Find music by The Shikes and other projects Dave Wirth is in at the Fire, Fire, Red Star Down! label’s page at Bandcamp right here: https://firefireredstardown.bandcamp.com
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