About threes songs into this album, and I am bemused. This cannot be Shipping News, I try to convince myself, for it bears no resemblance to the sonic genius of the band’s debut Save Everything. Yet, regardless of how I try to rationalize the unfamiliar sound pouring from my speakers, there is no escaping the reality that this is in fact Shipping News’ new album, and it really isn’t that good. three-four is culled from the band’s out-of-print RMSN EPs (Carrier, Sickening Bridge and Variegated), plus some new material. Each song is a solo-song recorded individually by each member of the group, and, as the liner notes suggest, “was made within a limited time frame and nearly in secret, with only a few exceptions.” This explains the unevenness of this release.
Gone is the bass-laden angularity that this band, and its antecedents (June of 44 and Rodan), more or less invented and subsequently perfected — the visceral noise that has come to signify the Louisville “sound.” With three-four, the listener is offered something more linear and less ambitious; something that at times shares an unsettling semblance with the insufferable drone and flaccidity expected of a Radiohead record (e.g., “Sickening Bridge versus Horrible Bed” and “Variegated”). Where Save Everything was clunky and bursting with raw energy, three-four is an incursion to all that’s languidly dulcet. It seems that at times these guys really want to rock out, and in a few instances are on the verge of abandoning all inhibitions (“Haunted on Foot”), but something happens and the climax is never reached.
If the listener is patient, and wades through over an hour of mediocrity, there is brightness at the end of the tunnel, and it ain’t an oncoming train — or, maybe it is. The throbbing bass lines, augmented by the thump of the kick drum and the desultory clash of cymbals witnessed on “Everglade,” three-four’s concluding song, remind the listener that, for a transitory moment, this band can still rock.