Dial by ShinebackRelease date: September 14, 2018
Label: Bad Elephant
Five years ago, Simon Godfrey unleashed the genre-bending project Shineback on an unsuspecting world. Blending prog, rock, EDM and everything else but the kitchen sink, it was a tour de force of aural delights. So capitalising on the positive waves created by the debut album, Godfrey promptly moved on to other projects and Shineback, it seemed, was all but done. Thankfully, this is certainly not the case. Last year’s EP, Minotaur, let us know there was life in the beast yet and this September, we got the second, full length album. Cue delighted squeals of joy and unfortunate dancing in my household.
Eschewing the conceptual narrative of the debut, Dial, ranges in its themes and lyrics but roots itself in the theme of communication. Says Godfrey, “We humans do a marvellous job of failing to communicate with one another, often when it matters most. All the songs on Dial carry that as an underlying theme.” Whilst proggers might be sad to hear that this is no concept album (in the traditional sense), that’s very much the only ‘downside’ of this album (and even then, it’s not really). There’s so many highlights and moments of brilliance on this album that I could easily write 4000 words on it. But I won’t, so let me pick out some of said brilliance.
The opening soothing strains of ‘Love and Consequences’ give way to a wonderful insistent kick drum which is punctuated by a soaring chorus. Dynamics are very much the name of the game with this track. Lead single ‘Consider Her Ways’, based on a John Wyndham novella, soars and swoops. This man Godfrey sure knows how to write a chorus. Title track ‘Dial’ is a laidback slightly off-kilter journey with some sublime guitar solos. Headphones definitely required for this tune. ‘Me vs. Me’ brings the funk drums and a wonderfully delicate and tremulous vocal delivery from Godfrey.
‘Let Her Sleep’ manages to combine elephantine riffing and some fantastic vocals; alternating between gruff aggression and threatening whispers. It makes me pull my metal face every time I hear it, without fail. ‘My New Reward’ had the kind of upbeat feel that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it booming out of the clubs in my hometown. Fun fact: the version I have has this track running to 26 minutes (it’s actually only 5 in total). I like this song that much, I’d have been completely fine with a 26-minute version. Prog credentials firmly on display there! Speaking of prog credentials, album closer ‘Kill Devil Hill’ is a twisty-turny adventure through the musical landscape, equal parts hectic and soothing. It’s a fine way to end the album and, yes, I doubled checked, the 13-minute running time is correct.
I’ve saved ‘I Love You From Memory’ until the end of my review because, for me, this is my standout track on the album. It’s divine. A drowsy intro leads us into a laid back, soothing, almost lullaby-like verse. Once again, a masterclass in dynamics as the verses give way to a swell of uplifting melodies for the chorus. But, for me, the thing that elevates this to stellar is the instrumental section. The song shrinks to a simple grand piano and then slowly builds its way back up to a sublime synth solo that I can’t stop skipping back to listen to, time and time again. It’s melodic, with its rises and falls, intricate yet totally fitting for the song. Love it.
Dial sees Godfrey progressing on from the excellent debut. It’s just as catchy and earworm-y as its predecessor but moves the lines and boundaries forward. Each song is stuffed full of ideas and hooks, groove and melody. Much has been made in certain circles of Steven Wilson’s last album and its more accessible pop overtones. I’d argue that other leading lights in prog have been doing this for a while now and deserve just as many plaudits for pushing boundaries and challenging what we define as “progressive”. Buy this album. Then the rest of the catalogue. Thank me later.