Prog-indie: could there be a more off-putting genre name? The connotations are horrendous: prog-rock, but not as powerful? A less anthemic and more drawn-out form of straight-up indie? It isn't exactly the sort of thing you'd use to drum up interest in a band. But whilst the tagline describes San Francisco’s Thee More Shallows to a tee, the end result is far from horrendous.
Book Of Bad Breaks is the third full-length from Thee More Shallows, or TMS (not to be confused with the Welsh football team TNS), and finds them at their most focused and visceral. Sometimes they encroach on Xiu Xiu's dark quarters; at others they offer a fairground mirror up to The Postal Service’s programmed beats and understated grandeur. But theirs is the path least travelled.
Indeed, whilst you can throw vague comparisons their way, the sound they create is deliciously foreign. Sure, at its heart lies the dark indie-pop songwriting spirit that anyone from Nick Cave-circa-Birthday Party to Frog Eyes can lay claim to, but TMS's manipulation of this spirit is far different: samples, effects, seemingly random power-chord riffs and a wealth of other elements cover, nearly smothering, the songs at their hearts. Sometimes so much so that it takes a few listens before a song even takes form coherently.
But for all this Book Of Bad Breaks is not a particularly difficult listen. Thee More Shallows have, in a short time, perfected their sound to an extent that they can take multiple left turns without losing their way. It's prog, sure, but not as you know it. Just how you want it.
8Jordan Dowling's Score