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Sharks - Killers of the Deep

  by Kimberly Bright

published: 17 / 3 / 2017

Sharks - Killers of the Deep
Label: 3Ms Music
Format: CD


Reunited pre-punk supergroup Sharks leap from out of the wreckage and onto the dance floor, picking up with their new album from where they left off in 1974

Of all the bands that ever had unfinished business, it would be hard to top Sharks. The short-lived hard-rock/white-soul/pre-punk supergroup formed by Andy Fraser in 1972 after leaving Free was expected to be one of the biggest stadium bands of the 70's, with Andy on bass, Chris Spedding on guitar, a young fresh-faced Northern Soul boy named Steve “Snips” Parsons, and Marty Simon on drums. Sharks were too rough-hewn to entirely fit in with their glam rock peers at the time, but nonetheless seized the amazing opportunity to open for Roxy Music on their first American tour, where their music was far more enthusiastically received than Roxy’s. The resulting long-standing friendships with both Bryan and Brian and the positive reception to their Andy Johns-produced debut album First Water couldn’t make up for the fact that Snips and Andy Fraser could not stand each other. When Andy was injured in the wreck of the band’s Sharkmobile (Spedding’s Pontiac Le Mans customized with shark teeth and fin, illustrated on the album cover by comic book legend and Sharks fan Shaky Kane), he chose that ill-omened moment to leave the band. The splintered relationship between Andy and the remaining Sharks wouldn’t achieve proper closure until 2013. The second Sharks line-up with Snips, Marty Simon, Spedding, Memphis-born bassist Busta Cherry Jones, and keyboardist Nick Judd carried on with recording their second album 'Jab It In Yore Eye' (with the UK version sporting a Hipgnosis album cover), and another successful US tour. For reasons no one at Island ever adequately explained, during the recording of their third album 'Music Breakout' in 1974, produced by the Who’s John Entwistle, Island dropped the band. Snips was able to salvage some of the abandoned recordings, released last year as 'The Car Crash Tapes'. In 1993 Snips and Spedding recorded a Sharks reunion album of sorts, 'A Black Van Parked on a Dark Curve', as a way to re-imagine what the third lost album could have sounded like if they had been allowed to finish it. Although they played a few gigs to promote 'A Black Van', the two were quite busy with other work at the time, and all talk of a Sharks reunion was put aside for another two decades. 'Killers of the Deep' is more than a follow-up to 'A Black Van'. It’s another chance to finally prove the band’s unrealized potential after forty-three years. Snips and Spedding were in the middle of recording Spedding’s solo album 'Joyland', inviting artists with whom he’d done sessions over the years to make appearances. A much mellower and friendlier Andy Fraser contacted Chris after several years of silence to ask him to do some live shows in the UK and Japan. He agreed to appear on 'Joyland' in exchange. It proved to be a healing moment: Andy and Snips got along well enough that no one who was not already aware of their awkward history had any inkling that they were anything other than long-lost colleagues. Following Andy’s death in March 2015 Chris and Snips played tribute shows in his honour in the UK, which went over incredibly well. It was then that they decided to continue with the Sharks project, recruiting metal/punk bassist Toshi from Snips’ previous bands King Mob and The Presence LDN, Shark Nick Judd on keyboards, and Sex Pistol Paul Cook on drums. Recording 'Killers of the Deep' took a week, recorded live with few takes (three at most), even fewer overdubs, and no agonizing second-guessing. With the help of engineer James Patrick at Smokehouse studios in Chadwell, they were able to achieve a big 70's studio sound. Spedding described it recently as sounding like a new album from an old band, which is what they wanted, and exactly what it is. That week of recording occurred during a turbulent 2016. A widespread feeling of dread just over the horizon, displayed by the Trump Doom video for Sharks’ fabulous, ragged, psychobilly cover of 22-20s’ 'Can’t Get the Devil Outside of Me'. There are a few songs previously recorded elsewhere and re-imagined here as something more complete and much harder, as in a tap on the shoulder vs. blunt-force trauma: a more thuggish 'Ya Ya Pop', sexy but disturbing 'A Complete History of Soul Music', and the creepier riffs on 'Killer on the New Tube', originally done as The Presence LDN. Listeners may also recognize 'Music Breakout', the title track of the lost Sharks album that also appears twice on Chris’s 'Guitar Graffiti' solo album as 'Breakout': a laid-back studio track and a raucous solo-saturated live version. Toshi had the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Andy Fraser and Busta Cherry Jones but proves to be more than capable, his Dee Dee Ramone-inspired bass playing fitting in perfectly with Paul Cook’s long-underestimated bedrock presence. Spedding’s stark, raw, and minimally polished guitar sound, using only his James Trussart SteelDeVille, gives these songs an uninhibited, spontaneous charge. There is a dark, mystical, occult power woven through Snips’ evocative, impressionistic lyrics. Rock, blues, soul, and dance clichés are dismembered along the lines of Brion Gysin’s cut-up technique and thrown around like soiled confetti – a mojo hand, king snake crawl, working in a coalmine, mountaintops, “land of a thousand dances.” Even though he has been back to singing for about seven years now, he still sounds like a dog who’s finally been let off the chain for the first time. The overall sound is tight R&B, big and unashamedly old-school, just like the original Sharks, as though a band of sweaty hard-rocking rogues had also been devoted viewers of 'Soul Train'. One of the album’s strongest tracks is 'Swirl', a soulful hybrid that weaves one delightful change into another, intermingling Nick Judd’s elegant piano and Spedding’s snarling guitar. 'One Last Thrill' is a quieter and seemingly made for radio, reflecting on the bittersweet realization that we have a finite amount of time to fit in all the adventure (“If you don’t get it now, you probably never will”). The accompanying video features possibly the world’s most unself-conscious dad-dancing -- by Snips - since Bruce Springsteen. More Sharks gigs and another album are tentatively planned for later this year. Even with a collective age approaching 300, with any luck this time the Shark adventure will be a longer, less dangerous ride with many more thrills.

Track Listing:-
1 Ya Ya Pop
2 The Complete History Of Soul Music
3 One Last Thrill
4 Swirl
5 Killer On The New Tube
6 Can't Get The Devil
7 Callilia
8 Red Red Red
9 Cheetah Always Win
10 Music Break Out

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Interview (2016)
Sharks - Interview
John Clarkson speaks to Steve Parsons abour the return of his band Sharks with a new album, 'Killers of the Deep' and first UK tour in forty-two years, and their plans to recreate their car, the Sharkmobile, with the aid of a Crowdfunding campaign

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