Writer’s block sucks. Writing these words onto a G-Drive document is a success in itself sometimes, but nowhere near the difficulty faced by Iona Cairns’ period of nearly three years without penning a song. Luckily, bolstered by none other than ex-Gnarwolf Thom Weeks, the Bristol trio have crafted a solid collection for their debut record—as much about depicting the menace behind happy packaging as their excellent Shit Present moniker suggests.
What Still Gets Me acts as Cairns’ surrender to feelings that burst frustratedly outward, needing to be heard by others. Its title track (to devastating effect) is top-of-the-lungs screamworthy about the mistrust of those closest to you, whereas downbeat delivery adds an ‘I’m not really bothered’ nonchalance to breakup cut More To Lose. In matter-of-fact The Pain, musing about the ennui of getting by —“It could work out one day, maybe, if I could do A, B and C”—is laced with pessimism, and its chorus prods you even more heavily with snare-hits. Elsewhere, there’s dreaded imposter syndrome, often at the mercy of an inner brain that has its own designs; joined by Weeks, both voices scramble for attention in Unravelling, a distorted fuck you at the inner thoughts pictured by both vocalists’ guttural yells. Voice In Your Head, similarly, characterises that titular voice: “I can fucking destroy you or be your best friend / I’m here ‘til you’re dead.”
Crikey. But the record’s far from all doom and gloom. While Voice In Your Head stands as one of the collection’s most bludgeoning saddened rockers, it closes with a toddler throwing a wobbly. As you do. The reflections on wants, needs, anxiety and depression tug at emotions wholeheartedly, though playfulness often comes up for air in all the right places. Whether acting as a humorous smokescreen to love loss and life’s constant bumpers or not, the immediate honesty of standout Way I’d Like longs for the touch of a desirable crush in relatable fashion. Fuck It is laden with attitude and an initial “woo!” starts up indie-pop treacle for those that loved either The Cribs or Avril, with the gain dialled up a little. After all, in Cairns’ own words, “I was trying to let my 13-year-old self out, the one that loved all the embarrassing pop-punk.”
The trio wastes no time in supplying that eye-winced feedback, as Cram The Page swells open and gives way to bendy string melodies and crunchy power-pop chords that lodge the songwriters’ verse/chorus/verse structures into the hippocampus. Week’s micless backing voice stresses the strain without stealing the show. It’s subtle and effective, like the faint string section that meanders underneath the acoustic guitar duels on Too Into It, where Cairns best mimics the full frontal heart-on-sleeve diction of Joyce Manor’s Barry Johnson.
As Ever After dismantles a fairytale through throttling emo-pop and jangly slowed number Talking About The Rain builds to a euphoric solo, the latter stages of What Still Gets Me take their rabble-rousers through different lanes. This 13-track collection acts a clear reclamation of being able to scribble inner thoughts onto the page for Cairns, backed by her company to add different hues to an already successful solemn yet catchy hybrid. It’s got the candour to make you feel something and the bite to let those bottled feelings loose.
For fans of: Pkew Pkew Pkew, illuminati hotties, Weezer
‘What Still Gets Me’ by Shit Present is released on 5th May on Specialist Subject Records.
Words by Elliot Burr