This is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank
“It sounds like Video Game Music!” is often the first thing people exclaim upon hearing Irish three-piece Adebisi Shank. And on first glance, the trappings are remarkably similar. These high-energy, high-tempo, highly melodic blasts of what sounds like electronic music are immediately reminiscent of modern video game music composers like dB Soundworks (responsible for the music in indie-game sensation Super Meat Boy) or video game-inspired artists like Anamanaguchi.
And yet, it would be a shame to limit Adebisi Shank to just these (admittedly great) comparisons. On their third album, This is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank, the trio displays a scope of influences so extensive that it can be hard to keep track of it all. I’d say we should just call the band “unique” and not worry too much about it, but where’s the fun in that?
The most immediate question is where do all their sounds come from? Recall earlier when I used the phrase “what sounds like electronic music.” It can be incredibly difficult to tell what’s synthesized throughout the whole album, and what’s played live. Larry Kaye’s epic, Fang Island-style guitar melodies have been digitized to sound like synths, the vocals are distorted to incomprehensibility, and the whole album is packed with robotic, DEVO-style drumming that is so precise that it blurs the line between what’s a drum machine and what comes from drummer Michael Roe.
However, a unique sound can only carry a band so far without serious songwriting chops, and Adebisi Shank doesn’t let down on this front. “World in Harmony” perfectly does its job as album opener, providing a clear vision statement for the band with fast, kinetic major key melodies, a complex structure, and an unbeatable sense of energy and forward momentum. The rare down-tempo number “Mazel Tov” uses simple basslines and subtle horns to immediately conjure up the feeling of a classic Morphine track fed through a computer’s brain.
The standout track, however, is functional album closer (only a short ambient piece follows it) “Voodoo Vision.” At just over six minutes long, it’s the lengthiest track on the relatively short album (the whole thing clocks in at barely 35 minutes). However, with riffs for days, frequent tempo and dynamic changes, and soaring, enthusiastically optimistic melodies, this track leaves you with everything the band would want you to remember from this album.
Even with repeated listens, Adebisi Shank’s third album, This is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank, continues to defy immediate classification. “Fang Island writes a video game soundtrack” would be my go-to line for describing it in one sentence, but even that seems too reductive when the band has created something so diverse and complex. Here’s one thought that is simple, though: If you want an album that’s truly joyous, that will always brighten your day, but will still always reward a close listen, look no further.