With their latest release, Shark Weak milk their jokey Shark-related premise for all it’s worth, resulting in a record that feels leaden with wasted opportunities. On Panicked Flailing Discord, the Alberta-based hardcore trio and concept-band find themselves straining to craft an entire record around the same joke.
Self-released on April 20, Panicked Flailing Discord opens with the four back-to-back tracks “Shark Attack,” “Scuba Steve, “Shark Tank,” and “Sharkodile.” What initially starts as a chuckle-worthy joke on “Shark Attack” – complete with audio of Police sirens and cries of “there’s a shark in the water!” — quickly becomes grating as the tracks bleed together into a frustrating slog, even with such a short length. By the time of the final track, “Don’t Feed the Fish,” it may feel like a surprise the album is less than half an hour long.
Musically, Shark Weak isn’t prone to expanding the by-now palatable but predictable sounds of classic hardcore. This becomes especially frustrating when it’s obvious that the members of Shark Weak are skilled players. Drummer Sean Moreland, bassist Nick Kellock, and guitarist Andrew Donen are adept at mimicking the rough and chaotic sounds of genre pillars like Black Flag and Minor Threat —no small feat to be sure—but this leaves little of their own personality to shine through. The raw, fuzzy guitars and rugged snare hits of the genre are here and do a great deal of heavy lifting for most of the record, maintaining an energetic pulse on nearly every song. The standout example would be the song “Shark Tank,” a track that gathers speed and ferocity over its three-minute runtime. It’s also one of the songs on the record that uses the band’s shark novelty inventively, describing the planned escape from the chlorine-filled waters of an amusement park from the animal’s perspective. On “Shark Tank,” they turn their concept from being a joke into an angry indictment of profit-driven theme parks that regularly abuse wildlife.
Humour in punk is far from a recent development. At its best, it can simultaneously undercut the genre’s occasional self-seriousness and still contain a nugget of commentary or satire (see the Dead Kennedy’s “Kill the Poor” or for a more recent example, Pissed Jeans’ “I’m a Man”). In the case of Shark Weak, however, their own voice largely feels as if it’s been pushed aside for the sake of their central conceit and a commitment to the sounds of hardcore’s heyday. Perhaps on their next release, Shark Weak will begin to move beyond their namesake and embrace a more varied and personal style.
Written by Alex Ramsay
*edited by Danielle Kennedy