Shorty – Fresh Breath (EP)

3 out of 5

Label: Skin Graft

Produced by: Steve Albini

A brief, punky punch in the guts.

You ever been punched in the stomach?  I’m not talking about an all-out wallop, or someone repeatedly bearing down on you like in a boxing ring; I mean the sucker-punch:  Quick, surprising, and right in the guts.  That has happened to me, and I still remember (because it was a million years ago, on the playground) the odd shock of it, that it’s not exactly pain, but the wind pushed out of you, sitting there doubled up, sort of recovered already but also wondering what just happened.

Such is Shorty’s EP release, Fresh Breath.  The rambling, punky rasp of the band is in full effect, but it tends to build up and then check out.  Which doesn’t mean the disc isn’t without highlights, namely the mini-masterpieces of Tomato Kisser and Kaput, but the buffer leading up to that can desensitize your ears to it a bit.

On the plus side, there’s no mistaking this signature sound: Gutsy riffing and bass lines and percussive smashes nearly falling apart around the beat while Al Johnson does his weird choked whisper-shout singing.  Albini’s production muscles this noise right up to your ears.  But in the case of both opener I Prefer “Nitwit” and the followup title track, the group lays down something pretty raw and awesome and then doesnt seem to know what to do with it, so they just sorta break it and jump ship.  Track 3 smartly reverses this somewhat by starting out with gathered pieces before smashing them together for a rousing conclusion, and track 4 actually manages to be a legit song, with something of a verse-chorus-verse structure and a build-up to its extended ending.  Shorty leaves us with the full steam ahead Really Pointy, which is a pretty amusingly insane track but almost a bit too long for how amped up it is.

Shorty’s Fresh Breath EP delivers on everything the group does well – messy rock and roll – but most of the tracks and the recording as a whole are a bit too brief to leave a lasting impression.  While you’re listening to it, though, that’s a different story.