After a considerable hiatus with only the stand alone single I Feel Hate, to placate the masses, Shields have returned. Their time away has obviously been used wisely since their sound has been recast and reinvigorated. This has been achieved with particular skill as they haven't lost any of the distorted glamour which made them so appealing in the first place.
Gone are the hyper-kinetic moments of binary bounce which used to propel their tracks with such youthful temerity. In its place we have a thoughtful and muscular rhythmic dynamism. This increased sense of purpose domination over their music has given an impressive creative depth in each song, which in turn allows a more complex appreciation.
Somewhat akin to the difference between costume jewellery and its expensive, genuine counterpart, this new EP is testament to a group of musicians passing through their period of apprenticeship and finally being allowed free reign to engage in mature work. Although regardless of the adult sensibilities evident within the music, they are still young and febrile enough to have their emotions catch in their throats and run heliotropic through their veins.
This gorgeous duality, of experience within youth is what powers Shields and is writ large in this release. Allowing them to construct music that is both clever and artful, but if you stand close and breathe deep and you can still smell the tears; hot and fresh on the skin.
The gorgeous choruses are still here and like the music's significantly developed tilt towards post-hardcore, they are noticeably richer in structure and import. Sam Kubrick's use of manipulative tone has advanced. So too have the robust vocals of Joe Edwards. Indeed the pair, who used to seem slightly in competition with each other, now allow their parts to gel sultrily and, more importantly, slink into the background of the music; creating that all important holistic aesthetic.
It might be easy to pin the responsibility for this squarely on the production, but Shields have always been blessed with bold and brainy engineering. So it's wonderful to notice maturity and development, and champion it in prose.
From a perspective of weight, this is significantly heavier than anything they have hither to released. Moments redolent of bands as diverse as Black Tongue and The Contortionist shimmer their way to the surface. However all these emotionally muscular influences are tempered and modulated by the secure fascia that is unmistakably Shields. Capping their own creation with a wax seal, impressed with a Gordian logo of their own devising.
I've been searching for negatives within this record. To balance the table, giving the compliments oxygen through realistic appraisal, but I genuinely cannot find one of any significance. In its construction they have been true to themselves, it is filled it with songs that are both thoughtful and effervescent, it has shown a definable progression since their last outing and is so of the moment that is feels like the future.
No more words.
Have a listen.
Guilt is to be released on the 20th of April.
– John Whitmore