A depressingly long list of rock acts have found fame, had trouble handling it, turned to heroin, and flamed out. Michael Head, the mastermind of this British outfit, seems to be taking an opposite journey: Having had trouble handling obscurity, he turned to heroin. But somehow, after years of drugs and near successes and more drugs, he pulled himself together and produced this fourth Shack album, which seems good enough to make him and his bandmates famous.
Like World Party, Shack offers up retro rock in the best sense, with exuberant melodies, singalong choruses, and hooks galore. The album manages to run through a wide range of styles—there are echoes of everyone from the Beatles to Love to Traffic—without ever revealing a weak point or losing its personality. There’s more than a hint of psychedelia on the disc—portions of “I Want You” and “Since I Met You” recall early Pink Floyd—but tracks like “Re-instated” also retain enough pop sensibility to sound redolent of acts like the Honeycombs, the Foundations, and Vanity Fair. Then there’s “Daniella,” a dark folk tour de force.
At its best, the album is good enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, and at its worst, it’s just plain excellent. You can count on H.M.S. Fable enduring; the only question is whether it’ll do so as a popular classic or a cult classic.