Shooting Daggers – Love & Rage


How often do you hear a record from a band with a message that’s more important than the music? You wonder if they chose the right vocation to broadcast their ideology. Of course, this is never an issue with the NME and The Guardian, and one needs little imagination to predict how supportive the BBC will be a of a queercore trio who “fight the good fight” and aim to take down the patriarchy with the alacrity of a Manson family acolyte planning a home invasion. Yet you can toss your cynicism to one side and appreciate many aspects of the debut album from London punks, Shooting Daggers. Clearly, the trio enjoy deconstructing and writing music as much as they delight in calling for a violent overthrow of the male-dominated status quo.

Love & Rage is punk, but it’s the messy hardcore punk of Spitboy. In other words, people with heavier tastes can enjoy it more than the anarcho-punks that have little time for music other than as an agitprop tool. Opener, ‘Dare’, is a turbo-charged riot with a mid-tempo thump and shades of Turnstile at its core. Shooting Daggers are not afraid to rock out, yet any hardcore festival would be proud to have them on their bill. Righteous anger is a powerful energy. The Donnas once showed this type of promise but never delivered. ‘Not My Rival’ shows how it should be done. Here, the band sway their hips, but will rip your nose off if you’re unfortunate enough to be a straight white male that might objectify them. A fuzzy bass guitar adds an extra layer of noise to underline the message of “Give violence a chance.” Three-chord punk can still draw a tap of the foot and a snarl of the face on the evidence of this number.

It would be easy to dismiss Shooting Daggers as all mouth and no musical talent if they didn’t have an exceptional ability to dip into the luscious textures of shoegaze when you’re ready to question their competence. ‘Smug’ displays the first sign of a rough grunge melody in the opening guitar riff before they lean into a bounce riff. Luscious vocal harmonies follow the vitriolic hurling in the bridge section like rays of sun melting snow. Admittedly, it’s like jumping into a time machine to cherry-pick the best of 1993, but it works. The same thing illuminates ‘A Guilty Conscience Needs an Accuser’. The serene dream pop musing of this song sparkles like a pattern of sequins. Listening to the release of anguish in the chorus as the emotions sail into the ether like an evaporation of happy tears.

“No more cute revolution/ No more – hear us out/ Disorder, no discussion / We take control and step on you,” roar the band in ‘Bad Seeds’. Shooting Daggers see no need to force-feed you the irony of being cute playthings, and why should they? Their music can stand up to scrutiny as much as their lyrics. Cowbell accents, chugging basslines, and luscious backing harmonies compete with a seething rage in ‘Tunnel Vision’. ‘Wipeout’ is clever enough to be ambivalent: “Out of sight, out of mind / They can’t provoke us, we’re untouchable.” Are they attacking a patriarchal attitude and recycling it for their own purpose?

Is twenty-five minutes enough for a debut album to leave its mark in the long term? It shouldn’t be too difficult to better this effort on later records, but Shooting Daggers master the balance here between aggressive fantasising and daydreaming. True, the feedback-drenched shoegaze of the title-track could be any American alt-rock band of the early 1990s with its shiny melodies and despondent down-strumming of the guitar chords. Yet it dares to step outside the comfort zone of hardcore when the mood demands it, just like the spellbinding fragility of the brooding piano piece of ‘Caves/Outro’ that ends the album on a sorrowful note. Originality is nigh impossible in punk, but at least the trio care about song writing.

We’ll be hearing a lot more from this band in our age of identity politics and moral relativism, yet their music deserves as much attention as their message. How often can we say that about a punk artist?

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 16/02/2024

Record Label: New Heavy Sounds

Standout tracks: Not My Rival; A Guilty Conscience Needs an Accuser; Tunnel Vision

Suggested Further Listening: Spitboy – The Spitboy CD (1994), Turnstile – Glow On (2021), Thirdface – Doing It with a Smile (2021)