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Mishka Shubaly

When We Were Animals (Widemouth)

By • Jun 10th, 2018 • Category: Album review

You know those nights.  You’ve ended up in some allegedly (they never are) illicit drinking den. The first splints of light are showing in the sky.  All the Bukowski-bros and wannabe holy-drinkers have got an Uber home. I mean you’re only there to make sure your friend is alright. The buses start again soon.

Were you to venture the gents, you’d find Mishka Shubaly desperately battering phone numbers from the stall walls into a cell-phone appropriated from the bar staff.  It’s all human contact after all.

..if you can hear me complain
I’m neither dead nor in jail

Were you stupid enough to look for such a thing in here, Death in Greenpoint wins the obvious single accolade. If only by a process of elimination. But, it serves a emblematic if what you’re gonna get here. Shubaly is a bar-room singer – albeit at the grungiest end of the scale – with hooks aplenty. The man can write a catchy tune. They just happen to be about sewage works and overdosing.

Toe-tapping, city-listing, Willin’ is almost a candidate to sell to Nashville. (If Nashville we’re still a place Johnny and Waylon were bumping tails off of Willie’s back.)  The darkest piece melodically (and, possibly, lyrically – depends on your position of some of the other behaviours) Wooden Crosses is underpinned by a wonderful broken Wurlitzer of vocals on the other-worldly chorus.

If you need a shorthand; there’s a Neil Young cover (Destructible) in here. Shubaly doesn’t sound like Young, but like someone that would cover him.

So far, so miserable? Of course not. Shubaly has become (one-man) house-band for a tranche of American comics. He probably has played as many comedy clubs as truck-stops these days. And, he is hilarious. But, as the old maxim says, all the best comedy is true. We’re not talking comedy-songs (yuk) as such. Just that every cry for help from the floor of 4am is underpinned with a black sharpie of understanding just how absurd the position is. That the monster you think you’ve become is pretty risible. World’s Smallest Violin, possibly the most scabrous song in here, can cause outbursts of laughter on public transport. A highly recognisable tale of failure in late nigh fumbling. (It’s not just me, is it?)   Yes, it will totally earworm you.

God knows if you didn’t have a sense of humour about this stuff you’d have done yourself a mischief long ago.

Of course, Shubaly has given it all up and taken to ultra-marathons and prose.  Just in time for his “career” to be given a jolt by a hell-raiser comedian.  And, like the proverbial returning dog he can’t keep away from dive bars, if only from the stage these times.  He get’s endorsed by the coolest star in Hollywood just in time for that cool to be lost to abusive relationships. He gets to teach at Yale.  But, has to sleep in his car to do so.  He’d not have it any differently.

When We Were Animals is released 2 June 2018.  To support this Mishka Shubaly will be touring the UK.  Including

Glasgow, 13th Note, 16/03/2018

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