Truly exemplifying the do-it-yourself band ethos, Bristol-based four-piece Shoun Shoun (‘shoon-shoon’) have released their debut LP of genre-defying noise, Monsters & Heroes – a fuzz-drenched, lo-fi excursion into don’t-give-a-fuck art-punk experiments.
Following the release of their 2019 EP A Hundred Trips – five tracks of dreamy garage rock – lead vocalist and guitarist Annette Berlin began working with an uncontrollable urge to connect with music. Finding intimacy with sound during a time when the UK was in lockdown, a result of the continuing global pandemic, Berlin fought isolation with creativity. The result is Monsters & Heroes, a record that rewards repeat spins on the turntable.
Opening with Giuseppe La Rezza’s crashing drum assault and Berlin’s distorted guitar grunge, ‘Did I Play Games’ disorients the listener with its loud-soft-loud dynamic, a juxtaposition of propulsive rhythm and delicate psychedelia recounting that one occasion a friend drunkenly slept on Berlin’s kitchen floor: “Just let me lie here with nothing to do / As long as I lie here everything will wait.” Next, the highly danceable punk groove of ‘Much Sweeter’ enters the chaotic spirit of Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth, before Shoun Shoun lowers the tempo for the monotone ‘Sway with Me’, Berlin’s evocative lyrics swaying in ethereal feedback – “Feel your way through time and space.”
Recorded in a garage and mixed in a loft, the frustration of lockdown is captured perfectly by Berlin on ‘Stuck’, a pandemic prompted coping mechanism. Her loneliness is confronted by infectious basslines courtesy of Berlin’s neighbour and literal garage rock guitar, whilst ‘Follow Me’ rumbles with a slow burn of unpredictable melody. Boris Ming’s abrasive violin strings stand out amongst a cacophony of idiosyncratic instrumentation, whilst Berlin delivers a vocal performance eerily similar to Björk, pre-The Sugarcubes.
Psych-monstrosity ‘Toxic’ allows for eccentric synth experimentation from Ming, who instinctively lets loose across a scuzzy bassline from Ole Rudd, before the mood shifts into the uplifting poppy alt-rocker, ‘My Daughter’. The lysergic wail of the violin pierces through the hauntingly atmospheric Nick Cave-like soundscape of ‘Refresh & Replay’ before Berlin shifts language for album closer, ‘Schwing Mit Mir’ (or Swing With Me), a droning melody building towards a crescendo of Deutschpunk.
Monsters & Heroes is a fractured collection of songs, reflecting a fractured period of time; two years of emptiness defied by experimental ingenuity. Ignoring genre conventions, Shoun Shoun have crafted complex noise that is uniquely their own, delivering an infectious lockdown long play without compromise.