Whether as a testament to my own credibility, or fear of putting my objectivity to the test, I resisted reviewing this release. As both a disclaimer and an explanation, I offer this: Jan Drees, lead singer of The Shell Corporation, has recently joined the Dying Scene writing team. And slithering between those words is my discomfort. It’s been a long time coming, but I can no longer claim to be a detached onlooker. Out of some journalistic moral code, I initially refused the chance to review this. But obviously, that didn’t last long. I was brought down to earth by wise words imploring me to listen before I refuse.
What I found upon listening was even more disconcerting.
Time & Pressure is really good.
The Shell Corporation have produced an EP that strives on its strong songwriting and composition. It doesn’t do anything to subvert the formula, but if you like your punk rock fast and melodic Time & Pressure will surely satisfy.
“Shit, Just Got Real, Son” begins the album with an injection of melodic hardcore. Easily the most typical on the EP, it succeeds more as a set piece than a song. As superficial as it seems, opening an album with something fast and furious is a tried and true technique. It doesn’t break new ground, but at least it doesn’t pretend it’s supposed to. It’s here to get us pumped, and does so through a Hitchcockian sense of audience manipulation. “Not Me” begins with some slow strumming and a pleasing vocal melody before transforming itself into a full speed punk number. The staccato strumming during the bridge makes the song feel more dynamic and the lyrics include the quotable couplet, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink/ you can lead a man to knowledge but can’t make him think.”
“Looking For a War” is notable for its inclusion of a female vocalist, which is a simple addition that truly adds a lot. Melodic punk rock and its endlessly chugging guitars can tend to run an album into the ground without experimentation with form. The Shell Corporation understand this and instead of writing a record that could’ve held six indistinguishable songs, they play with style and arrangement enough that each of the songs stand as their own entity. “Non Violence is a Luxury” is one of my favorite songs on Time & Pressure for precisely that reason. It’s distinctive and memorable; amongst an album of fairly straight up punk rock, The Clash-like reggae present on “Non Violence is a Luxury” is something of a palette cleanser. Proving not only that The Shell Corporation have the chops to diversify beyond their most recognized genre, it also puts the spotlight on an intuitive and effective example of track sequencing.
The final track, “Seantonamo’s Lament” is a fist pumper that features some great dual vocals, recalling some of Hot Water Music’s most aggressive material. It’s a good sing-a-long, but much better is that it’s just a plain good song. It’s straightforward in all the best ways. As an ending track it strips away frills and gimmicks, delivering its punk rock with honesty and passion.
I enjoyed Time & Pressure every bit as much as I initially resisted it. The Shell Corporation is a band of talented young people doing what they love, and it shows. Undoubtedly, they still have room to grow. But that’s not so much a dismissal as an excitable prediction. Time & Pressure is a great EP, but I have a feeling they’re not too far from perfection’s doorstep.