"Convent" by Shanghai HostageReview
Shanghai Hostage are continuing their long running excellent form & defying COVID with another prime release this morning namely their new single "Convent"
This absolutely quintessential track from one of our area's best loved bands has come about since they have managed (unlike with such tracks recorded at the height of the crisis with a reduced lineup, such as last May's "Mr Motivator") to reconvene at the Tin with Ian Whitehead producing and with Giles Braid guesting on drums again: as with their previous release "Free Lovin' Woman" which came out for Christmas. I think I'm right in saying that this breaks new ground for the group: two consecutive releases featuring the same combination of players?
At any rate, despite the constraints of separation & not being able to rehearse let alone gig, Shanghai Hostage are continuing to go from strength to strength. For those who feel deprived of not having seen them don habits for too long, "Convent" will be a tonic as they are back on sacred ground…
From the Bach referencing opening, they continue to bring a musical & lyrical wit and humour to subjects which are in fact pretty profound. That sort of balance takes skill & a fine judgement (you neither want to belittle your message nor seem to be patronising your audience) and that's yet another aspect of the band which I and many others appreciate: they are sure footed in what they do & present well wrought songs which ooze with self confidence & critically no obvious interest in fitting into anyone's pigeonhole nor accepting their labels.
Self identifying as a "funk rock" band, readers of my reviews of previous releases will see that while not untrue (both elements are hard to deny in their work), they are merely two of a wide range of styles they are happy to play & talented enough to play: usually in the course of a single song. On this occasion, from their classical intro the band then head for the rockier end of their spectrum with the band getting their heads down for some pretty grungey playing with Sophie yelping & howling à la P J Harvey or Siouxsie Sioux over the top: possibly her most powerful vocal on a Shanghai Hostage record to date. I loved it.
Thankfully the band have created a lyrics video to accompany "Convent" (check this out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kBT_s1H1ic) as they are worth taking note of: the general theme being around "..running away to a Convent to escape the patriarchy" and enabling some excellent associated wordplay such as "I'd rather pray all day than be preyed on all night" or "maybe I should kick the habit & wear one instead'.
As with all their songs, they mean what they are saying but clearly are enjoying playing & passing on their thoughts: and this is what endears them to live audiences: some of which hopefully they'll be entertaining & enlightening before too much longer. In the meantime raise your hats (or wimples) to them. This is fine fine music.