Showbread - “Showbread Is Showdead”
With zero previous exposure to “raw rock” outfit Showbread, I was a little apprehensive going into Showbread Is Showdead, the band’s swansong. A planned last album is a tricky thing to pull off for any artist, but for Showbread, whose history is littered with everything from high-concept double albums, full-length sci-fi movies (!), and keytars (!?), the level of unfair expectations is uncommonly high.
Fortunately, Showbread don’t seem to acknowledge any of it beyond the smirky album title, as “I Am Horrible At Processing Rejection” wastes no time getting started with the most infectious groove I’ve heard this year. For the uninitiated like myself, Showbread is going to sound like Refused’s classic banger “New Noise” came to life and formed a band, developing a hard rock swagger and augmenting with all sorts of interesting sounds in the years since Refused prophesied The Shape of Punk to Come. What I first took for some crazy, Arsonists Get All The Girls-style synths, for example, turns out to be a full-fledged keytar. This is Showbread’s secret weapon, straddling the line between seriously cool and seriously chintzy, never fully committing to one or the other. This is impressive considering just how important it is to these eleven cuts, reigning in the band’s post-hardcore spasms and propelling “My Shadow Is A Bat,” “Harry Harlow and the Monkeys of Despair” and especially album highlight “Dear John Piper (Stillbirth in Space)” into some choice grooves. Showbread’s punk instincts shine on manifesto “Raw Rock Theology” and the energetic “Legacy of Skubalon,” which sounds like The Offspring in their heyday.
It’s hard to say what exactly holds Showbread Is Showdead back from being truly great, but some of the blame falls on Josh Dies’s vocal performance, which exhibits the same problems that listeners might have with Refused’s Dennis Lyxzén. Always on and always energetic, his harsh vocals range from electric (“I Am Horrible At Processing Rejection,” “January 3, 1989…”) to somewhat yappy (“Raw Rock Theology,” “Why Shouldn’t We Kill Ourselves?”), while his cleans, best displayed on the Nine Inch Nails-lite of “Showbread Is Showdead” and optimistic closer “Life After Life After Death,” are tuneful, but unremarkable. For a band with such a chameleonic history, it’s ultimately a smart move on Showbread’s part to tuck their heads down and charge ahead with an album as neat and compact as Showbread Is Showdead, but it would have been nice to hear something as out-there as their reputation suggests. For what it is, maybe the most fitting praise I give Showdead is that I am now very interested to see what I’ve been missing out on for nearly two decades.
- Brian L.