You will usually see me walking around town hooked up to an IV pumping me full of 90s alternative and grunge music; I need it for survival. Right now, my IV is pumping me full of SHAG! And lemme tell you, I haven’t felt this alive in a long time! Hailing out of Edmonton, Alberta, SHAG are a four-piece alt-rock group that feels largely inspired by early 90s grunge and punk. Blisteringly distorted guitars, heavy hitting drums and biting, nasally vocals, put it right in my veins!
SHAG’s debut full length album Thursday Night Special (released June 7th, 2018) explodes out of the gate with the lead single “Do Better,” a blaring and straight forward rock song with an infectious chorus. Vocalist/guitarist Zack Kelly sings with an almost ironic casualness that works brilliantly with SHAG’s carefree, punk rock approach, very similar to what Mark Arm does with Mudhoney, or even Mac McCaughan of Superchunk. “Do Better” rides strong on the rhythm section of Travis Piecharka (bass) and Trevor Gauthier (drums), neither one overplaying and giving ample space for lead guitarist Jess Robinson to rip it up; lovely to see all four members working in perfect rock & roll unison.
Thursday Night Special rolls along nicely, churning out guitar riff oriented rock on “Upgrader(Ed)” and “Underhanded.” SHAG do not mess around with their formula too much and in my opinion they really don’t have to, it works so well. Robinson’s guitar work feels fresh and energetic throughout and though Kelly may not have the most dynamic vocal range, he cuts into these songs with enough vigor and style to not take away anything from the overall vibrancy of the tracks. “Coat It All in Gold” is a coasting, bluesy amble that reminds me a lot of Nirvana’s “About A Girl,” especially that opening riff. Kelly’s delivery, like the song is extremely casual, kind of talk singing and it seems to reaffirm the “don’t give a fuck” attitude that SHAG harbour throughout this debut.
Thursday Night Special is right in my wheel house and offers up basically everything I could ask for in a rock record. Objectively, the album could have used a little more studio polish, and while I can concede that often a rough album mix can add to the charm of a band, I’d say with a little more production SHAG can without a doubt hit that next level of success.
Written by Lee Ferguson
*edited by Danielle Kenedy