When Mclusky split a little while back, we nearly shed a tear. Three albums just didn’t seem enough from a band who took the Pixies tight surf punk, and added liberal dashings of seething and often hilarious lyrics – “All of your friends are cunts, and your mother is a ballpoint pen thief” being a personal favourite.
So it’s a welcome return for ex-Mclusky bassist John Chapple, a man who has played gigs pogoing on his bass, painted entirely silver with gaffa-tape over his nipples.
Initial signs are that Shooting at Unarmed Men are not that dissimilar from Chapple’s former band. Taking Care of Business opens the album with a lolloping bassline and a strangulated vocal which states “They’re not as clever as we think they are” continuously. It’s got a distinctive D.I.Y. edge to it, which may grate with some, but there is enough of a tune for it to actually worm it’s way into your head.Four Eyed McClavyvie follows and although the approach may be messy, ultimately S.A.U.M. have enough about them to make it almost anthemic. Naturally, the track dissolves into chaos towards the end, although it’s not quite convincing enough to be cathartic.
It’s at this point that you realise that while there are elements that you can attribute to Mclusky, precision and subtlety are not attributes that S.A.U.M. seem to possess. Mind you, they haven’t had the advantage of Steve Albini recording them. At times it sounds as if they’ve recorded the whole thing by placing a microphone in a bucket in the room next door. The shoddiness of it all is occasionally charming; it can get a bit irritating at times though.
The album starts to dip in inventiveness around the middle, starting with Impunity Rules, which is a bull-headed punk tune, the kind of thing that might turn up on a cheap compilation full of bands from 1977 that you never heard of.
Things don’t start to look up until The Pink Ink makes an appearance, with lyrics about a girl with a bag that’s filled up with her own leg hair. At only two-minutes at long it’s a sucker punch of a song. It gets in your face, buzzes frantically, yells something surreal and then disappears well before it outstays its welcome.
There’s a Reason It’s Called the Easy Way Out has the honour of not only having the best title on the album but also being the best song. A tight new-wave riff opens the track before it turns in on itself, becoming moody and introspective. It reflects a different side to the band and it’s one that could see them being viewed as more than just noise merchants. It’s a definite highlight
Shooting at Unarmed Men don’t hit all the targets this time around, but there’s plenty of wild eyed promise here.