LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Telling Truths, Breaking Ties' - Millie Manders and the Shutup
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Battling with yourself on an internal level whilst also launching an attack on the many wrongs you see in the world around you, and attempting to entertain and engage a captive fanbase seems like a gargantuan task, and indeed it has been for Millie Manders and The Shutup. Yet all that struggle has culminated in their incredible debut album, ‘Telling Truths, Breaking Lies’, and it is a true testament to them. Tackling issues are wide-ranging as climate change, depression, and heartbreak, this album feels like taking a peek into their eponymous vocalist’s diary – a diary that is accompanied by a soundtrack that bridges the frivolity of ska-punk with the gravity of metal, and all the wonderful grit of the punk spheres in-between. What is most fascinating is that these tracks work on each and every level – for such full-bodied tracks, they lose nothing when their individual elements are left to breathe on their own. The well-placed beats of silence across the album are testament to this – this is band entirely confident in their musicianship; not afraid to play around with layers; and to just have fun with the instruments and soundscapes that they so love.
Opener ‘Your Story’ boasts buzzing guitars, which fade abruptly to a beat of silence before the first verse kicks in, bringing with it balance in the form of bright, sugary goodness from the trumpets. The range of Millie’s vocals is simply stunning, dipping to ferocious lows before pelting skywards into the soaring choruses. This track is all about blending binary opposites: whilst brass and guitars are as natural bedfellows as ever, all the irresistible bouncy brightness of ska-punk is blended through something darker and grittier, accompanied by lyrics that are dripping with frustration that has turned to liberation in being freed into the words. Similar multitudes of tones can be found on ‘Broken Record’; rumbling basslines ground the track, giving it a weight that balances the fist-pumping melody line. Packed to the brim with raucous energy that makes bouncing around in your seat inevitable, these are tracks that beg to be played to a crowd of rippling hands and bopping heads. However, in the closing moments, all the backing falls away, leaving the led and harmony vocal lines interweaving and dallying over each other, displaying the subtle craftsmanship that goes into each of these multi-faceted tracks.
This fist-pumping anarchy is also echoed on tracks like ‘Here We Go Again (Black Dog)’. Distorted, radio-effect guitars and the staccato vocals in the chorus give it bite and grit, whilst the whiplash-inducing crescendo into the bridge is technically brilliant as well as bringing with it an ever-surging rush of adrenaline! The brass in the first verse of ‘Not Okay’ also serve to inject that familiar pace and vitality into the track, and the opening line of the chorus is the definition of cathartic: screaming ‘I’m not okay!’ at the heavens when it has been held inside for so long is evidently such a much-needed release. This is a record where pain and suffering are not ignored, nor cured, but used as a fuel to keep pushing onwards.
That sentiment remains the driving force behind some of the record’s most powerfully resonant tracks. ‘Panic’ is littered with sound bites, including from a market stall selling meat products, as well as a news report on the crisis of climate spreading across the globe. Isolated tapping cymbals and gentle drums reinforce this, as they attempt to lull the listener into a false sense of security, while also building the sense of something ominous on the horizon. That ‘something’ makes it’s appearance in the form of fiercely critical lyricism, drawing attention to the state of crisis which we have plunged our natural world. Imploring people to make an active change in their world, and making no mistake that the burden of responsibility for this tragedy is an individual as well as a collective one. Going right for the jugular on an issue that is equally as deadly in today’s society is ‘Bitter’. Pulling on the lingering hatred and anger many ae left with after surviving sexual assault, the track blossoms from a dark, seductive groove that breaks into a stonking guitar line that many hardcore bands could never aspire to! Lyrics come firing out like bullets, each one pierced with a poisonous venom of fury. This track pulls absolutely no punches; even the more melodic choruses are still borne of the unabatable rage of someone wronged by the most callous of people. This is the perfect track for anyone with a grudge to bear that can only be worked out through some seriously cathartic hell-raising!
Yet the anger on this album is not always directed at external forces of evil. From the opening bars of ‘Silent Screams’, the grainy distortion on the guitars give this track a much darker tone, fusing elements of old emo and metalcore dramatics into the band’s already tumultuous musical arsenal. Lyrically, this track tackles incredibly dark feelings of depression and the never-ending battle which comes along with it. They are delivered with a frustrated anger that adds visceral fuel to the fire: amongst the towering sung lines are verses delivered in powerful spoken-word form, with a slam-poetry lilt that is both perfectly poised and deliberately pointed in its power.
Spoken-word lyrics pull no punches elsewhere too – namely on the illusive ‘Poor Mans Show’. Politically charged lyrics are the crowning glory of this track, which is deceptive in its softer tone, gently swaying choruses, and gentle, ethereal bridge which floats on a chorus of gentle harp notes. Condemning the current political landscape of the country; from the lack of healthcare services, to police brutality and the corruption that breeds at the heart of our government, this track is proof that sometimes you don’t need big chest-beating instrumentation to create a cutting track that nestles into the heart of the listener as well as their brain. However, the title of this record’s most poignant track simply has to be given to ‘Glitter Mix’. Melancholy guitars weep and groan, laying the foundation for the soft vocals that come whisping in in the overture. Plunging into the chorus, it is more grandiose, but in a terribly doleful way, as the figure at the song’s centre slowly fades away from addiction and pain, those looking on powerless to help. This is one of the most potent, emotionally charged songs on the entire record, the audible pain in the vocals enough to bring tears creeping into anyone’s eyes.
By the end of this record, ‘Burnout’ is a shared feeling, as the listener has been carried on a rollercoaster ride through all the rousing highs and darkest lows of the record’s changing pace – and from all the dancing, of course! If one single lyric embodies this entire album’s ethos, it is found here: ‘No time to rest when you follow your dreams’. Keeping everyday life ticking over while forging a path to the bright lights and big stages of tomorrow is enough to push anyone to the edge: yet if any band is able to handle that most perilous and exhilarating of journeys, it is these guys!
'Telling Truths, Breaking Lies' is out on the 23rd of October - pre-order the record here:
Check out the video for the band's latest single, 'Bitter', below.
The band have also released a limited-edition vest and t-shirt to co-incide with the single's release, with £5 from each sale being donated to The Survivors Trust, an umbrella charity for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. They are available on their official website.
Millie Manders and the Shutup are in the process of rescheduling their postponed tour dates - these are the currently announced new dates at the time of publication:
Sat 07 BRISTOL Louisiana
Sat 21 NEWCASTLE Head of Steam
Fri 11 LONDON New Cross Inn
Sat 19 PLYMOUTH Junction
Fri 19 HULL O’Riley’s
Sat 27 LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Sat 24 KINGSTON Fighting Cocks
Fri 30 BOLSOVER Carr Vale FC