It's well known that anyone reviewing a Shack album is legally obliged to mention the band's troubled past, so let's begin there. In a nutshell, then: lost albums, studio fires, heroin addiction, Cast.
Now that's out of the way, we can turn our attention to …The Corner Of Miles and Gil, the new album by Shack. It's a album by a trad Scouse band on Noel Gallagher's record label that was produced by one of Space, so it could easily be terrible. But it isn't – …The Corner Of Miles And Gil is, in fact, a thing of outrageous beauty.
We thought we knew Shack from their 1999 HMS Fable album, a record that had journalists looping the loop about its brilliance, even though it was a mostly cack collection of smackhead sea-shanties. Now, though, we're faced with …The Corner Of Miles And Gil – a majestic psychedelic guitar-soul record, like Forever Changes performed by monged-out Scousers.
Musically, …The Corner Of Miles And Gil is just gorgeous; light and jazzy with breezy trumpets and vocal harmonies exploding in every direction when you least expect them to. And then you listen to the lyrics and discover that things aren't quite as sweet as you'd assumed.
First single and album opener Tie Me Down, for example, is about a woman asking her lover to strap her to the bed with some rope from the cupboard, while Finn, Sophie, Bobbie & Lance is about the abduction of four Home And Away characters. We're clearly a world away from James Blunt here.
Picking stand-out tracks from …The Corner Of Miles And Gil is a difficult task, since the album fits together as one movement so well, but Cup Of Tea with its sighing "ohhhh"s and "lalala"s is the most immediate song in the collection – perhaps the most immediate song in Shack's catalogue – so it doesn't really matter that it's about a fruitcake lodger spiking her landlord's tea with acid. Find A Place, on the other hand, is a spooky, disturbing piece of atmospherics that would be depressingly off-putting if it wasn't pulled off with such a light touch.
If we'd have been told that …The Corner Of Miles And Gil by Shack was a lost 40-year-old album by a band nobody remembers, we'd have taken the bait. As it stands, though, …The Corner Of Miles And Gil stands up against anything you dare stand it up against. It isn't just the best thing that Shack have ever recorded, it's arguably the best thing that Noel Gallagher has ever been associated with.
[review by Stuart Heritage]