As part of their monthly singles club, Where Its At Is Where You Are are giving away Ghosts Before Breakfast by Shrag as February’s offering, coupled with two exclusive non-album b-side tracks Gutless Wonder, and Heart Open/Mouth Shut.
Ghosts Before Breakfast
This is the hour where parties go to die. When your friends’ faces start changing into something shark-eyed and amoral, and you can see things sliding around under the skin you were kissing hours earlier. You’re quadrangled by limbs thrashing no longer out of ecstasy but for the love of monotony – metronome people convinced if they clicktrack to a perfect beat then that ensuing and all-too-familiar holocaust of the soul will be annihilated. Shrag aren’t coming down. They’re facing the fear dead-on. Their synths sound like they can’t stop coming up, but they’re mutated by the touch of the morning light – sketching out. Becoming something tentacled. Lashing out. Blurring in and out of one body, Steph and Helen imagine themselves in an art-house film where everything is stop motion and arbitrary. Back in the real world, those bass strings grind their teeth insistently. This song is a disco for people who are terrified by the thought of discos; a pop song that sounds like a panic attack.
Helen (vox/keys): “A song about waking up, and finding it is with the fear rather than a friend.”
Russell (bass guitar): “This is a transmission from Earth… you’re not to come here anymore.”
Because if you say something so many times then it becomes a spell. The rhythm section stoke up a warm, drunk swaying sound that fingers your hips and bends in time with you, but whispers poison in the ear you were expecting sweet nothings in. The mocking “We’re not feeling all that sentimental,” is still sung like a caress, like every word is meant to console you, and it does, until that chorus sings in like a slap to the face. Like eight slaps to the face. No one here is leaving with that special someone tonight. The streets are huge and empty; your shadow grows fangs and cackles behind your back. No other band would be brave enough to sing Gutless Wonder to themselves every faltering step home: beautiful magic used as ritual self-abuse.
Helen: “Cowardice begets cowardice, and sometimes it is safer to stand still.”
Russell: “Sometimes this is the best song we ever did.”
Heart Open/Mouth Shut
So if you haven’t got it by now, then Shrag songs are a kind of psychic armour. OK, so it’s armour with chinks in – that lets ghosts swarm in sometimes, or that doesn’t flinch from the odd punch to the heart, just to see what it feels like – but it still keeps you safe like dancing shoes and wine-stained lips don’t always. There are songs on Shrag’s Life! Death! Prizes! album that drug you into invincibility (A Certain Violence), that list and classify the pornographies of obsession (The Habit Creep), or that just promise everything will be better in the morning, or in a morning (Coda). Heart Open/Mouth Shut just bites down hard on a groove and doesn’t let go til it’s dead. A guitar line shatters over the top like glass ornaments in wall-beaten fists and two girls make the sound of an army of girl-gangs into a chorus. There are worse ways to get bulletproof than this.
Helen: “A cautionary tale about unrestrained affection, and how it makes you a moron.”
Russell: “Don’t let a forward slash stand in the way of love.”
Download Shrag – Ghosts Before Breakfast EP