Words by Alex Payne
Image courtesy of Ian Cheek PR
Ska, in today’s musical landscape, is like chilli. No matter how eclectic a band’s influences are, ska has a certain punch that guarantees listeners will notice it first. Of course, like spice, it can certainly enhance an album, and provide it with a unique selling point – especially as the genre has largely fallen from the zeitgeist. Enter ‘Telling Truths, Breaking Ties’, the debut from rising London band Millie Manders and The Shutup.
Truthfully, their debut is a swirling tornado of genres that drifts over an expertly composed and well performed pop-punk base – ska is just the most obvious. Your Story and Here We Go welcome listeners with perhaps the purest showcase of the band’s sound, with peppy guitars, stabs of brass, throbbing bass and drums buried deep in the mix. Most immediately striking though are Millie’s choruses: most bands have to settle for a vocalist, but The Shutup has a singer. Rich and unwavering, Millie has the range to sonically switch between sweet and biting at a whim, which gives the record great versatility
It’s not until the following track, Silent Screams, that Millie tries her hand at rap-cum-spoken word, rattling off a succession of staccato flows between the soaring choruses. Bordering on nu-metal, it’s a little jarring, but the lyrics and energy more than make up for it. The poppiest cut on the project is Poor Man’s Show, which leans heavily into reggae. The breathing room from the heavier instrumentation is used brilliantly, as Millie delivers a scathing critique of government cuts to the NHS at breakneck speed. Socially aware and deployed with a sense of venom, the lyrics are thoroughbred punk, which isn’t unique to Poor Man’s Show. On Bitter, a track that lyrically tackles the issues that stem from abuse, Millie candidly bares her emotions against the thundering instrumentation with a sense of vulnerability that is truly brave. Finally, often the unsung hero of many debuts, the production and mixing on ‘Telling Truths, Breaking Lies’ deserves highlighting. Polished, but rarely glossy, Millie’s vocals are tactfully given plenty of room, and the wide range of instruments never feel like their competing for listeners’ attention.
The capricious juggling of genres lends the album a sense of true, raucous fun, but it can occasionally feel toothless as a result. As a debut though, it’s practically dripping with talent and creativity, and the powerfully delivered lyrics prove that Millie Manders and The Shutup are ones to keep an eye on.
Physical copies of the release are available here