Do you remember 2013? Here are some fun facts about that year:
Natalie Coleman won Masterchef, Jorge Mario Bergoglio won Best New Pope and the words “twerk” and “selfie” were added to the dictionary. Notable and factual events, all. It was also the year that two brothers, Ronald and Reginald Elephant launched Bed Elliott Music with the first release from Shineback, BEM001, Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed.
The Elephant Brothers’ label (or “ElBro”) has released many more things and a fair amount of stuff between 2013 and now, but for Shineback it seems like a delay of almost Tool-like proportions. “Seems” is the operational word here. Shineback, basically Simon Godfrey and long-time collaborator Robert Ramsay, were not just being a bit tardy. For Simon there was his involvement with Valdez and their album This and gigs and festivals, plus an ongoing suite of semi-retrospective releases and a fair bit of dog-walking. Then there were the critically acclaimed solo albums, Motherland and Confound And Disturb by Simon and Robert respectively. Then, in 2017, there was Minotaur, a Shineback EP.
Seemingly being able to write songs as he left the womb, continuity and evolution are, paradoxically, evident in all of Simon Godfrey’s work. He has made a name for himself, albeit the name he already had, which is Simon Godfrey. He uses this name a lot, whether as a member of Valdez or in his Black Bag Archive Volumes I, II & III, or as Shineback. Why, then; “Shineback”? What even is a Shineback? Is Shineback an alter-ego? I couldn’t even begin to guess. That’s why I contacted the man himself and cheekily bothered him for a while using MyFaceSpaceTubeMessengerBook.com. Pure gentleman such that he is, Simon didn’t tell me to go away.
PL: Hi Simon, guess who’s doing the TPA review of Dial! Sorry to bother you. I was wondering, if you have a few moments, if you could explain what a Shineback is so that I can use it in my review.
SG: Hello Phil. I hope all is good with you. That’s an interesting question and one which nobody has asked before. While Shineback is very much a project in which I am the captain and engine room of creatively, I consciously decided that with this musical endeavour, I wanted to reach into areas which I could clear hear in my head but struggled to inhabit technically. As a result, the idea of collaborating with musicians that possessed such skills became a core tenet and so the music I made was reflected back to me through the technical gifts of the guests I approached, hence the name, Shineback. Plus, the domain name was free ?
PL: Am I really the first person to ask? Surely not!!!! I’ll quote you on that answer!
SG: You absolutely are!
PL: Well, that is rather splendid! You seem a pretty skilful musician to me, but I see the benefits of using other musicians. It’s like properly seasoning an already flavoursome dish.
SG: That’s a great way to describe it.
PL: I’ve had a first listen to Dial. It’s really different to RUF,RD. [then randomly changing the subject] I know that you and Mr. Ramsay go back a long way. Should I regard Shineback as a Godfrey/Ramsay partnership or a multi-musician collaboration or something else altogether? Do you feel like it is your baby or do you and Robert share it like a Mum and Dad? If so, which one of you is the Mum?
SG: Shineback is definitely my baby but Robert is as close to a collaborator as it’s possible to get. To be honest, this time around Robert has been less involved on a day to day basis as we now live and work in separate countries. In addition, the majority of his attention is elsewhere as he’s working on a new book right now but I trust his judgment completely and any suggestions he had to make regarding this album was always taken seriously.
PL: Thanks Simon. I’ve got loads to go on now. I wish you all the success with Dial that you’d wish yourself. So… You’re the Mum? I’m going to say you’re the Mum.
SG: Pretty much. Lol.
Thank you for your time, Simon!
Oh yeah, Dial! I should have asked him more about Dial! Ah well. You’ll have to make do with what I make of Dial.
To give my impression of Dial I thought a comparison with earlier Shineback recordings and a smidgelet of track analysis is relevant. Lies and Consequences, the opening of the album, is feel-good pop/rock with many component parts, opening with a section that will initially deceive you into believing this is a quiet departure from the occasionally frenetic precedent set back in 2013. A smattering of somewhat jarring guitar feedback settles down into the opening verse that eventually gives way to an energetic bridge and a chorus that spreads out to deliver its hook. This is thick crust Simon Godfrey but with a Shineback topping. Then at 5:37 – Bang! There it is. Pure Shineback. I suspect that Lies and Consequences may become many fans’ favourite album track. I support this hypothesis by saying it is the first track from Dial with a full video out there on the Interwebs.
Lies and Consequences is not, however, typical of what follows. I dwelt on it because it sits somewhat apart from the rest of the album. Consider Her Ways with its AOR overtones, a hook big enough to catch a whale and its majestic and unashamedly Mozzarella guitar solo replete with fret tapping, is the track I voted “Most Likely To Smile Wryly At Proglodytes”. And yet track one nor track three set the tone for the whole album. This IS a departure from the debut Shineback release!
Four tracks in and we’re at the title track. Different again! Lots of lovely guitar and a smashing distorted bassy bit at the end.
Eight tracks in and it becomes even clearer that the album Dial is not baked using anyone else’s best-selling recipe book. There’s still that blend of pop and rock but now with a smattering of Industrial seasoning. Moreover, EDM is still in there… somewhere, but it doesn’t appear to be informing the flavour of Dial. It is more a garnish. Consequently, it feels wild in places, nailed down in others. In the spirit of genre-defiance (or is that conformity?) there’s an epic fourteen-minute song, that I suspect is the illegitimate lovechild of Eddie Jobson and Mike Rutherford. Evidently, they gave it up for adoption and it grew up snorting the dust from Simon’s Black Bag.
The stand-out track for me is Let Her Sleep. It is about as different from Simon’s already distinct yet diverse body of work as you can get whilst still retaining elements from his musical lexicon. You might need to listen a bit harder to hear them, but they are there. It leans positively away from anything remotely “prog” and towards the afore-hinted-at industrial. Then the sound snaps back to a more “traditional” Shineback sound with My New Reward.
Mr. Godfrey has continued to develop his considerable and sophisticated song-writing skills. Each track on Dial feels tidier, less …frenetic. I’d seen this trend emerging in Minotaur’s four diverse songs. To my ear this is one of the best-sounding records he’s produced. All of this without regard for genre.
The musicianship is smashing. Simon Godfrey is stamped through Dial like a mildly Ramsay-flavoured stick of rock. There’s fantastic playing and added continuity from the guest musicians, many of whom were on Rise Up… and are making a return appearance on Dial. Even so, I don’t think a single track sounds like another, let alone any songs from the first album.
Lots of music has been brought into this World by Simon Godfrey since Pope Francis twerked his way to becoming Masterchef. In some respects, few things not Shineback are just as they were in 2013. Sure, some facts have changed; the World is now universally acknowledged to be quite flat, idiots can achieve the highest office, “Twunt” and “glamping” are now in the dictionary – fun facts all – but, reassuringly, Kenny Tutt is still Pope and Masterchef is still won every year by Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The continuation of the progressive trend from Rise up… to Minotaur is the same, but musically; Dial sounds sufficiently new.
Should you spend your hard-earned cash on it? High quality songs seem to fall out of Simon so it was a good bet that Dial would be worth a punt. I pre-ordered this album without hesitation. Even though I’m lucky enough to have got my paws on a promotional download I’m more than happy to have paid for the CD and at the time of writing I’m still look forward to playing the CD for the first time!
Incidentally, the credits for additional guests reads like a musical further reading footnote! There’s some top-shelf playing talent throughout on all the instruments. It would be unfair to single out any of the players. Having said this, some of the guitar is just stand-out stuff and the keyboard playing sets it apart from being a guitar-band album. All contributions are amazingly sympathetic to the songs and none of them steal away the songs’ limelight. All the performances give Dial a definite band feel.
It is, therefore, worth expanding on that list as a footnote, showing in parentheses what the other artists are up to. I hope it helps you to explore the elements that make up a whole Shineback: Dec Burke (AudioPlastik/Frost*/Darwin’s Radio). Hywel Bennett (Dec Burke Band). Joe Cardillo (Valdez). Tom Hyatt (Valdez, Echolyn). Ray Weston (Echolyn). Matt Stevens (The Fierce And The Dead). Karl Eisenhart (Pinnacle). Daniel Zambas (We Are Kin). Henry Rogers (The White Orchids, Final Conflict, Touchstone, DeeExpus, Nerve Toy Trio, Final Conflict, Shineback, Touchstone, Edison’s Children, Touchstone, Mia Klose, Touchstone, Edison’s Children, Heel, Puppet Rebellion, Puppet Rebellion, Touchstone, Heather Findlay Band).
Henry Rogers alone should keep you busy for a bit!
01. Lies And Consequences (6:57)
02. I Love You From Memory (6:46)
03. Consider Her Ways (4:51)
04. Dial (9:50)
05. Here I Am (2:52)
06. The Gentleman (7:16)
07. Me vs. Me (4:59)
08. Without Words (4:54)
09. Let Her Sleep (5:05)
10. My New Reward (5:16)
11. Kill Devil Hills (13:57)
Total Time – 72:56
Simon Godfrey – All Instruments
Robert Ramsay – Words & Spoken Word
Ray Weston – Vocals
Henry Rogers – Drums
Dec Burke – Guitars
Matt Stevens – Guitar
Hywel Bennett – Guitar
Tom Slatter – Guitar
Karl Eisenhart – Guitar
Tom Hyatt – Bass
Joe Cardillio – Keyboards
Daniel Zambas – Keyboards
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 14th September 2018