Unacquainted with Shamir’s disco-fuelled 2015 debut ‘Ratchet’? Not to worry. Follow-up ‘Revelations’ bears absolutely no resemblance to the glitter-ball, dancefloor-glued fix of his first work. It’s a completely fresh start. In part, that’s because Shamir Bailey’s first stint at the big time saw him embracing a genre he didn’t even like. He’s confessed to having had no real knowledge of disco’s roots and little love for dance. Instead, he’d been raised to enjoy country, indie and ragged, unfiltered punk. All three show their face on ‘Revelations’, a dramatic back-to-basics release that swaps polished floor-fillers for raw honesty.
Technically, ‘Revelations’ is Shamir’s third album. After being dropped by his label XL, he recorded spur-of-the-moment LP ‘Hope’ in the space of one weekend, releasing it for free online. But shortly afterwards, he experienced a psychotic episode, found himself hospitalised in Las Vegas and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. ‘Revelations’, recorded in the immediate aftermath of his release from hospital, captures a feeling of picking up the pieces. Instruments are loose, notes are sometimes out of tune, and vocals strain alongside long, elongated power chords. Listen closely, and you can hear feedback from an old, crackling guitar lead.
But these songs are meant to sound rough around the edges. On the raggedy ’50s pop of ‘Blooming’ and the ultra-playful, spooky ‘Games’, Shamir finds solace in pure expression. Giving these songs a processed studio sheen would be to miss the point. On closer ‘Straight Boy’, he calls out those who give a damn about being cool: “Being true is not their thing / Though it eats them up internally”. ‘Revelations’ is one big middle finger at music that tries to fit in.
That’s not to say it can’t be improved. Ditching disco is one thing, but songs like ‘Astral Plane’ are in severe need of at least some groove. On the flipside, the more refined ‘Float’ sounds like a gem discovered on a black-hole Bandcamp binge. Best of all is ‘90’s Kids’, which confronts every old, haggard so-and-so who claims today’s youth don’t work hard enough. “Our parents say we’re dramatic / But they always ask for more than we do,” he chants, penning an anthem for anxiety-ridden millennials the world over. ‘Revelations’ wants to be unlistenable, but it can’t always hide Shamir’s songwriting strengths.
- Release Date: 3 November, 2017