Shellshag - Rumors in Disguise (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Rumors in Disguise (2010)

Don Giovanni

Sludgy, lo-fi, two-piece punk. Must be from Brooklyn. The duo of Shell and Shag, known to the world as Shellshag, recently made its Don Giovanni debut with Rumors in Disguise. As minimalist, plodding and ramshackle as the band gets at times, the record showcases a gift for hooks, even if they're as tossed off as the "blah blah blah"s of "Get Right." If you're looking for Ramones-indebted dirges of the haziest degree, Rumors is the place to be.

The duo splits vocal duties throughout the album, with guy guitarist Shell recalling Jeffry Hyman more than lady drummer Shag does. Shellshag writes two kinds of songs--slow, psychedelic ones and faster garage rock fare that almost recalls Mean Jeans or No Age. Either way, there's a lot of murky production. The group is said to have a dynamite live show, and these songs, while not exactly exploding one after another, hint at that possibility.

"1984" kicks the record off well. It's a hair too fast to be called mid-tempo. Shell's guitar squalls alternate between shoegaze haze and psych backwards solos while Shag lists things that don't work for her (drugs) and things she'd like to know (other stuff?). It's an excellent number, and it's not even the lead single. That would arguably be track two, "Resilient Bastard," which The Village Voice has been hyping for a month. Shell takes over the mic, hypnotically referring to himself by the song's title. From there, the album continues down its little punky path. Sometimes the songs get harder ("He Said She Said"), sometimes the group whips out a cool instrumental (the last 40 seconds of "Wake Up" are killer) and sometimes Shellshag just kinda putters around for like three minutes ("Get Right" succeeds in being neither terrible nor terrific for three minutes).

Given the somewhat repetitive nature of the music, Rumors' 14 tracks could have been whittled down to 12, maybe 10 songs. Still, at a 32-minute running time, the album is cohesive and entertaining enough. Again, the songs suggest that Shellshag might be better live. I could see them jamming out "Wake Up" to great success, and rockers like "He Said She Said" and "Dirty Looks" should go over well. For now, though, Rumors is a solid glimpse at Shellshag's sound.