Originally formed by former members of XTC and Gang of Four, Shriekback has been one of the more restlessly experimental new-wave outfits for 23 years now. Throughout that period, it has provided an outlet for the singular vision of the former XTC keyboard player Barry Andrews, who's joined on this 10th album by the percussionist Martyn Barker and a small gang of collaborators who include his old bandmate Andy Partridge, whose guitar parts add depth and a lurking sense of danger to tracks such as "Sea Theory" and "Troublemeat". There's a maritime theme running beneath much of Cormorant, a title that evokes an image of a natural outsider pitted ceaselessly against the elements: these are songs that track the struggle to locate some stable emotional anchorage in an ocean of dread, watching, horrified, as the populace gaily rides its televisual tumbril to the gates of hell. "Library's in the skip, board the sinking ship," mutters Andrews darkly in the bitter media critique "Bonehead", not bothering to conceal his contempt, but offering through his inventive keyboard textures - part Eno, part Zawinul - a more sensitive response to the malaise of the age.
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