Shooting at Unarmed Men

Soon There Will Be ...

(Too Pure; 2005)

By Sean Ford | 15 November 2007

My editor likes to tell me I write about Mclusky too much. And while I've never written a review of an actual Mclusky album, it's true that I've managed to sprinkle many a reference to the crass Welshmen in reviews where I probably shouldn't have. But I can't help it; Mclusky is one of the few bands of the ‘00s that I've been able to work up a schoolgirl crush on. Or, at least they were before the cantankerous blokes split in January of this year, prematurely ending one of the best rock bands this side of the Pixies and turning my heart the color of coca-cola in the process.

But from the ashes of Mclusky sprang forth rumors that both Falco and Chapple were forming new bands immediately, all cranky phoenix-like. Well, Jon Chapple, snarky bassist and sometimes vocalist of the former trio, has kept up his end of the bargain. Working with Simon Alexander and Steve Morgan as Shooting at Unarmed Men, Chapple seems to be having a ball. From the first beat of the album to cacophonous squelch that closes it, Chapple displays the sarcastic, goofy nihilism that endeared many a Mclusky fan. But for a band that has supposedly been playing together off and on for six years, Shooting at Unarmed Men sure sounds like the work of a side project.

There are ten songs here and they almost all contain the tossed off feel of unfinished work. Sometimes that borderline slacker feel suits the songs, and sometimes they sound like they never should have made it past the practice room. The instrumentation is usually quite simple, with bare bones drumming and lots of driving Cobain-inspired guitar. An exception is the misleadingly excellent opener, "Taking Care of Business." Featuring a jangly guitar riff that bounces between subdued bass work and Albini garage-door drums and some of the best lyrics on the album (“The intricacies of the disease/ and the feces on the wallllllllllllllllllll”), the song builds to a bone-rattling chorus with the whole band joyously singing, "They're not as clever as we think they are!"

While most of the songs here carry the same sarcastic edge and mannered carelessness; “Taking Care of Business” is one of the few that highlights Chapple’s biting wit. The album’s single, “The Pink Ink,” sounds like a soccer anthem on speed, but without the substance. At times, like on “Impunity Rules By Fourty Percent” the band is simply grating. The noise disaster of “The Accidental Drummer” is an unfortunate experiment.

However, there are songs that if not polished, are at least fun. “Four Eyed McClayvie” sounds like the kind of Chappel song that might have made its way onto a Mclusky album eventually, a la the Nirvana-esque “Falco vs. the Young Canoeist” albeit with none of that song’s stellar guitar work. “When Potent Means Don’t” is another very solid song, featuring a mellow guitar riff and a rare show of restraint.

In the end Soon There Will Be… sounds like practice for a real first album. Or maybe this is what happens when the other half of the creative process isn’t there anymore, because, sadly, these songs feel woefully under-cooked. At this moment, Chapple seems ready to join Tobin Sprout and Spiral Stairs and Paul McCartney as the shrug-inducing half of broken-up titans who splinter into new groups. Hopefully, Chapple can harness some of the wit and humor present on the first three tracks and the band can further develop some of their ideas. In the meantime, we’ve got that massive three disc Mclusky rarities collection to look forward to. And if Falco wants to release something soon, that’d be fine, too.