The big news from the jungle of the senses is that one of the finest live bands of the post-punk era has returned to the stage after spending some 25 years quietly producing a succession of low-profile – but high-quality - studio albums. So what’s been going on and how did we get here…?
Shriekback was formed by bassist Dave Allen on his departure from the Gang Of Four in 1980, in collaboration with ex-XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews and, shortly after, guitarist Carl Marsh from Out On Blue Six. Under the auspices of the visionary Y Records (label-mates included The Slits, The Pop Group and Pigbag), the group found their voice experimenting in EMI Music’s KPM demo studio in London’s Denmark Street, refining a uniquely recognisable sound in 1982 on their first full-length album, Care, and achieving wider recognition with the singles Lined Up and My Spine (Is The Bassline). A move to a major label, Arista, allowed this sound to be fully realised on 1985’s Oil & Gold, a milestone album that remains the band’s best-known (helped by the success of the single Nemesis) and the foundation of their popularity on the US College circuit and elsewhere.
Oil & Gold also heralded a period of line-up changes (Marsh left shortly afterwards, followed by Allen after the next album, Big Night Music) and experimentation in style and format, ranging from a relatively more commercial 8-piece band (which toured extensively world-wide, notably in support of Simple Minds) to a smaller, more intimate, near-acoustic unit. In all, the various line-ups recorded five studio albums between 1988’s Go Bang! and Glory Bumps in 2007.
Marsh made a tentative return in 2015, contributing two tracks to Life In The Loading Bay, which was otherwise effectively an Andrews solo record under the Shriekback name. This was followed in 2016 by Without Real String Or Fish, which included Barker in a fuller reunion of the band. This successful reformation in turn prompted the decision to return to the live arena during 2017 and beyond, with an over-subscribed Kickstarter campaign funding the initial set-up and rehearsal period. With Allen unavailable, the trio have recruited Scott Firth (P.i.L) on bass and former stage collaborators Steve Halliwell (guitar/keyboards), Mike Cozzi (guitar) and Wendy and Sarah Partridge (backing vocals). This 8-piece band allows Shriekback to give full voice to all the force and nuance of their extensive catalogue, as the universally enthusiastic response to their triumphant return at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire in June demonstrated.
The band are currently writing and recording material for a new album while further tour dates are lined up.