What a perfect title; this record’s both that adjective and that noun in equal measure. Shang-a-Lang’s first foray into full-length territory reveals what I’ve guessed all along: the more songs they write, the better they get, the more I like them. It’s knot-in-throat music. I understand that “being real” is a cliché and means as much as “street cred,” but S-A-L aren’t afraid of looking at the ugly in themselves and their situations. (Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, knowing that lead singer Chris has a tough job in the social services, yet he helps turn that anxiety into an all-ages space in Las Cruces while running Dirt Cult Records.) But it’s these doses of self-doubt and self-depreciation funneling themselves into songs that act as mysterious, inspirational catalysts. (Instead of being total life crushers.) My guess is if the world didn’t have so many shit bits flinging up and cracking S-A-L’s windshield, there’d be less of a constant catalyst to create music. It’s because they just can’t stop doing it—it’s their antidote, their inoculation and booster shots—which is such a different place to make music from than making it because you don’t have anything better to do. (And let’s laugh at making music for fame, sex, or money in this review.) For anyone interested in an unadulterated archetype of what DIY punk’s up to in the late ‘00s, drop the needle on Sad Magic.
–todd (Fast Crowd)