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Album Review

Speckly is the CD reissue of Shrimp Boat's debut long-player issued on vinyl in 1989. It is chock-full of 14 songs that identify the notion of improvisation and outrageousness in a recording studio. Musical ideas are developed by each member of the band, more often than not on a slew of musical instruments from trumpet and saxophone to various stringed things to percussion and drums that try to keep the whole thing in line. Country music is played with counterpoint on "Planter's Song," which opens the bag, followed by a jagged, off-kilter bit of Americana obnoxiousness called "Seven Crows," which nonetheless lights up the listener's face with a smile because of killer guitar work by Sam Prekop. There is banjo poetry and Tom Waits-style percussion in a reading of the Appalachian ballad "Shady Grove," while the shimmering low-key elegiac pop of "Green Island" is taken out of its nest by outré jazz saxophones but remains firmly in the rock camp — though it's pushed out on the ledge. What this amounts to is a music of impure intention and poetry, completely rooted in the American sonic maelstrom. There are no limits because the only thing sought is song itself, free of its various tattered heritages and recontextualized, not for the sake of fitting a new niche in the belt of the rock marketplace, and specifically not to be hemmed in or bolted to any rusty wall where openness of communication between musicians has produced dire seriousness as the end result. This is a glorious record — it's wracked and wrecked; it stumbles, falls, and ultimately soars because of the joy inherent in its grooves.


Formed: 1985 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Precursors of the esoteric sound eventually tagged "post-rock," Shrimp Boat was among the key Chicago indie bands of their era, with members later going on to even greater success in groups like the Sea and Cake. Originally comprised of singer/guitarist Sam Prekop, guitarist Ian Schneller, bassist and David Kroll, Shrimp Boat formed in 1985. Their affinity for unusual time signatures, jazz-influenced structures and exotic rhythms were unlike anything else on the contemporary Chicago club circuit....
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Speckly, Shrimp Boat
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