Henry Rollins is the more iconic Black Flag frontman, and arguably the better one, too. But the party-time buoyancy Keith Morris brought to the Flag—and to the Circle Jerks —has been sorely overshadowed by too-serious Rollins acolytes. With its debut LP, Shards offers a remedy: The 11-cut LP brims with the genre's definitive get-pissed-and-vent intensity, but beside every pained grimace is a crooked grin.
Allegedly, Shards began when guitarist Matt Watson and drummer Cameron Craig rediscovered T.S.O.L.'s thematically dark take on early West Coast hardcore. With titles like "Breeder Scum" and "Lycanthropic Discomfort," that's clear here. But as dark and political as they could be, T.S.O.L. could also be wickedly funny, too, as the necrophilic anthem "Code Blue" attests. Shards doesn't shy away from such non-P.C. humor ("Watersports Olympics," anyone?), either. Vocalist William Evans carries a sneering slur in his voice—perhaps inspired by Whatever Brains, the band in which he, Watson and bassist Evan Williams also play—that brings to mind Lee Ving's elastic performances and Tony Cadena's bitter sarcasm. Plenty of bands have sought to replicate the sound of LA hardcore. Shards aims to improve upon it; their debut is noise-addled, snotty and fantastic.