SHINER- ‘Schadenfreude’

A warm blanket of an album, this.

Oh, I’m sure Shiner, newly back in business after a lifetime away, want to inspire a more transcendental reaction, but ‘Schadenfreude’ finds the space rock pioneers slotting everything in its right place with no alarms and few surprises. An old friend record.

I don’t even think you need to be all that familiar with the band for that to be true either. Shiner basically pick up where they left off here but the key components of their sound- muscular, twisting alt-rock riffs, clean, hypnotic melodies, grungy post-hardcore parts, dynamic guitars swirling around Allen Epley’s almost-spoken, layered words, and drummer Jason Gerken’s punchy, powerful beats- are capable of inducing comfort and nostalgia even in the uninitiated.

And so opener ‘In the End’ sounds like a time machine to the 90s. It’s a really clever track, starting by laying down separate, seemingly-disparate sonic pieces before slowly building them together. ‘Life as a Mannequin’ is a slower-burning, pulsing thing that sounds a little like Shiner’s peers in the also recently-reunited Failure. And ‘Paul P Pogh’ is a dark, driven, uptempo track- maybe the best song here- that could have fit on any of the band’s previous records. In fact, on this form, it feels like it’s been two minutes since the band’s last album, not two decades.

Shiner’s return has perhaps at least in-part been inspired by renewed interest in their original sound, as so many new bands soar into space rock territory, and so many new people seek out the source of the genre. But the Kansas City quartet always felt connected to earth and steel as much as black holes and zero gravity, and you can still hear that unique grounded quality. There’s as much desert sand here as stardust.

Given how other rock’n’roll returns have worked out, perhaps ‘Schadenfreude’ feeling just fine should be cause for greater celebration. There are multiple ways this could have gone horribly wrong. But it never really, truly takes flight either. In the end it’s a slightly too comfortable and maybe slightly too careful, but consistent and welcome comeback.

A warm blanket.

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