New band of the week: Shields (No 85)

Slick, soaring electropop with a candy coating designed to give you a sugar high

Hometown: Newcastle.

The lineup: Luke Elgie (guitar, bass, vocals), Richard Sutton (guitar, vocals), David Williams (guitar, synth, vocals), John Martindale (percussion, bass, samples), Tom Larthe De Langladure (drums, vocals).

The background: There has been the odd mention of north-east five-piece Shields over the past couple of years, but there was little sense they were capable of a debut album so accomplished. How Can We Fix This? is so full of murderously infectious, polished pop, it will make you a) wonder why they didn’t feature in any of the recent ones-to-watch polls but also b) ecstatic that music can still surprise. Who knew? Pay a cursory listen and you may think this is just more electro-indie with angular rhythms and shimmery synths. Focus a bit harder and they might start to sound like sons of Futureheads and Maxïmo Park. But we don’t remember the latter ever sounding this good, this casually adept, fast yet funkily sublime. Shields are the antithesis of the low-aiming, underachieving, provincial scruffy boys. They aim high and frequently reach that bar. Some might baulk at their music’s shiny cleverness but others will surely appreciate – applaud, even – the nonstop smartness. If your tipple is raw, primeval rock’n’roll, you will recoil at the brainy momentum of their songs, not to mention the surface gloss. Others will lap it up. Its slickness, well, it’s healthy. Shields may singlehandedly extend the lifespan of the traditional indie band – a species approaching extinction according to some – and give the format hope.

How Can We Fix This?, produced by Adrian Bushby (Muse, Foo Fighters, My Bloody Valentine, Everything Everything), is the first great new debut album of the year, and if that statement lacks credence given our position in the calendar then come back and ask us again in June or November. Opening track Technicolour is a glorious onrush of sound, like a more accessible Everything Everything: math rock without the cumbersome calculus. Come Unstuck is new rave revisited but makes it feel like the first time, capturing the dizzy rush, the delirium of love and euphoria. Shields haven’t forgotten, amid all the excitement, to carefully structure their songs with all the usual components: verse, chorus, bridge, vertiginous giddy ascent towards the coda. Mezzanine is bright and bubbly, a new sunshine pop: not the baroque ‘60s variety but a modern kind of ear-dazzling colour-burst. Any number of these songs could be the next single. The title track might be a good place to start: a successful realisation of the sort of dreamily melodic MOR synth-disco previously attempted by Zoot Woman, say. Again and Again is another great one with a giddy, gorgeous chorus. The whole album plays like one long (musical, existential) affirmation: the title of latest single Alive says it all. What’s that sound? It’s the joy of knowing that pop still has places to go.

The buzz: “Bouncy.”

The truth: Debut album of the year (so far).

Most likely to: Say what you need.

Least likely to: Come unstuck.

What to buy: How Can We Fix This? is released by Kaleidoscope on 26 February.

File next to: Foals, Everything Everything, Friendly Fires, Zoot Woman.


Ones to watch: Flats & Sharps, Isaac Gracie, Suntrodden, Atlanter, Cullen Omori.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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