Shiny Around the Edges latest album "Holy Roller" sounds like a harrowing plunge back into mid 90s rock. For someone who played catch-up at the beginning of college and dredged up June of 44, Victory at Sea, Stricken for Catherine, and others, the churning, de-tuned guitars and a mood that shifts from sullen to despondent seem almost too familiar. At just over seven minutes, "I Hover Above You" comes closest to matching the epic scale of their precursors, and the shouted "We'll put the horse into the barn" sounds like a slight variation on June of 44's "Stern and starboard, port and bow."
On tracks like "Crosses," which mixes harmonic-heavy strumming and fuzzy, unhinged solos, and "Avoidance Theory," which relies on string buzzing for tension and texture, Shiny Around the Edges do interesting things with minimal drumming, guitar, and a bit of bass. However, on the less successful songs, the vocals overshadow much of this. The opener "Every Hunter," a domestic violence narrative of stark visual directness sets the tone for the rest of the album, and it may as well be a capella for all of the barely-there guitar figure. Some of the choruses aspire to be mantras, but the lyrics don't hold up to the repetition, especially on the more up-tempo "This Apocalypse." By contrast, "Avoidance Theory" rises to a moment of major-key guitar and vocal motion that provides much needed relief from the sense of dread that permeates so much of the album.
The album's penultimate track, "Elizabeth Ascending," sounds like an interlude, but its melodic synth patterns don't seem to relate to any of the songs that come before. It leaves the final track with its cassette recorded vocals and guitar work feeling like a coda to a short album that feels a bit too long. 5/10 -- Howard Martin (8 July, 2009)