The new album from surf-rock/emo-revival band Shit Present, titled What Still Gets Me appears as a light-hearted singalong pop-punk record on the first go-around.
It’s an unexpectedly dark expression of a person battling mental health issues on the second spin. It culminates in an exciting debut album from a band successfully playing to their strengths.
The 13-track LP from the Exeter-based trio, to be released on May 5, sounds like a nod to the best elements of pop punk and emo rock from the past 20 years on its opening tracks, with straight-talking lyrics, singalong choruses, and prominent guitar riffs – best shown off on tracks like ‘Voice In Your Head,’ ‘Fuck It,’ and ‘More To Lose,’ all of which were released on an EP last month.
However, the pacey pop-punk sonics aren’t without substance, as some really quite serious and downright scary subject matters are addressed. This includes the diagnosis of Iona Cairns’ bipolar disorder on the opening track ‘Cram The Page,’ a meditation on how a doctor’s description of the symptoms fails to scratch the surface of her lived experience.
This theme continues on the stand-out track ‘Unravelling,’ which partners Cairns’ lyrics discussing past bouts with a shattered mental state, gritty textured guitars (Thom Weeks), pummelling drums (Ben Cottham), and a chilling, banshee-battle cry chorus. “It’s safe to say I wasn’t very well when I wrote this, and it’s probably the song I’m proudest of for that reason,” the frontwoman told Highwire.
The album’s title track, ‘What Still Gets Me,’ with guest vocals from Camp Cope’s Georgia McDonald, unwaveringly points the finger at dangerous men who claim to be harmless. “It’s not always a stranger in the dark / It’s the person you trust that goes too far,” the pair yell in a call-and-response style that showcases the strength in finally allowing yourself to feel angry.
Moving toward the album’s B-sides, Cairns’ vocal delivery is at its most dynamic on ‘Beyond Tonight,’ reaching an incredible soprano burst and sturdy guitar in the closing minute. While I didn’t love the slower tracks ‘Too Into It,’ and the first half of ‘Talking About The Rain’ (which was admittedly saved by the gut-punch of sustained vocal force and a rocketing guitar solo), ‘Ever After’ marks itself as the strongest tune of the album’s latter half. The penultimate track has the catchiest pop-punk verses, guttural vocal breakdowns, and a tried-and-tested but well-executed melodic structure.
There were a few points throughout the record, however, where Iona’s dejected, apathetic vocal inflections – which largely prove effective at conveying the pissed-off aesthetic throughout the album – start to feel overused and inappropriate, such as on tracks ‘Crossed The Line’ and ‘Too Into It,’ making Cairn’s delivery feel flat and, well, apathetic.
Similarly, while the effort to prevent each song from ending with a fade-out is to be noted, the skit/samples at the end of tracks ‘Voice In Your Head,’ ‘The Pain,’ and ‘Too Into It’ feel clunky and tacked-on, meaning the overall flow from song to song isn’t as cohesive as much as one would hope.
As far as a debut full album goes in its entirety, Shit Present keep a consistent thread of style, substance, and pace throughout the nearly 40-minute record, taking tentative steps in new musical directions. At the same time, honing in and developing on their strengths – you can safely (and eagerly) expect stronger songwriting, more robust mixing and mastering, and more relatable tunes to dance in your bedroom to than you’ve heard from any other release from the band.