Shutups Take Mundane Missteps and Make Them Worth a Dance on EP 5

Oakland band Shutup’s new EP 5 is a very adult piece of work. This isn’t to say that it is frigid or stuffy, but moreso that it provides a rollicking rock foray into the complexities of adulthood.

Some of this grown-up feeling comes from Shutups’ desire to not waste time. Almost every song on the five-track EP starts with a line that pulls no punches. The mood is set in less than ten seconds, and by the time the lyrics have settled inside you, the drums and bass and percussion have come to play — but by then you’re already too far down the river to turn back.

Take EP highlight “The Monday after Easter Sunday.” The song starts out with an ethereal synth instrumental before the lyrics kick in, giving the listener a bit of a breather before this: “The Monday after Easter Sunday’s filled with guilt again/because I didn’t call your mom when I said I would/but tomorrow I’ll make good on that.”

Platitudes can be great — pop, for one, couldn’t exist without them — but moments of hyper-specificity like this leave a lasting impression. It’s one of punk’s greatest modern evolutions, one that has led to a plethora of post-hardcore and post-emo outlets that don’t bother screaming about The Man anymore. Why bother, when you know that pulling from your last journal entry is a little more on par with the current zeitgeist?

Being an adult is, unfortunately, grappling with your own mundanity and the fact that it’s the small failures that will fell you as opposed to the large ones, because they are so much harder to pinpoint. Forgetting to return a call, return a text. Realizing your taxes are due in 24 hours, like I do every single year without fail. These things can be as brutal as they are predictable.

The second single, “Can You Dance to a Feeling?” is a strange creature. Shutups seems to have the uncanny ability to take what sounds like two different songs (sometimes more than two) and weave them together in a way that feels natural. The chorus of “Dance” sees lead singer Hadley’s voice go unexpectedly high, even as it’s almost drowned out in a crash of percussion. The rest of the song has moments of bubbly electronica and those kicked-up drum refrains that are clearly part of Shutups’ go-to repertoire (and part of what makes them so fun). One way or another, it will get you dancing, whether during the big-band chorus or the verses.

Album opener “All at Once” takes a little while to hit its stride, but about a third of the way through we get a crunchy guitar riff that leads into one of the EP’s many killer lines: “I know your bed is soft for me/I’ll return your call in another week/I know this is only temporary/you might as well have died.” The complexities of personal obligations permeate this EP: phone calls, family. What do we owe to our friends who are suffering, even when we ourselves are not yet out of the woods?

The EP’s first single “Death from Behind” captures this best as Hadley muses, “I’ve been calling to request your songs/because I know you’re cutting too much/and anything will help pack a bong.” There’s a lot of potential interpretations here — self harm? Not eating enough? — but mining the lines for some sort of codebook on Hadley and drummer Mia’s personal relationships isn’t as important as the fact that we know we’ve all been there in some capacity. Trying to keep people afloat is hard, and trying to do it perfectly — or at all — is sometimes impossible.

The yenta in me (which greets the yenta in you) still wants the codebook, however, especially for the EP closer, “Last Place” which starts rather dirge-like. “How do I know my friends are still there?/When I cry, can they hear?” Hadley asks. There are some beautiful lines here, notably: “I’ll sleep in the back of my car/cause that’s the last place I heard you laughin’/and I suppose I’m overreactin’/ but I don’t know when any of this shit will end.” I’d love the full story behind this, but I’ll settle for sitting with the plucky guitar that leads us out of the EP. And after that’s done — I’ll make a few phone calls.

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