The first time I saw ShitKid (Åsa Söderqvist) was September 2016 when PNKSLM records brought her over from Sweden for the PNKSLM Ball at Camden’s Lock Tavern. She was second on the bill but played like she was headlining. At first my brain struggled to process what I was hearing: a lo-fi, half-finished, fully formed, sneering, apathetic, fully committed, glorious mess. It was her birthday and the label had organised a cake which was given to her during the show. She ate some of it, fed her band mate and then threw, or shoved, the rest at the audience. By the end of the set I was cake-free but hooked.
This is the second album by ShitKid and follows 2017’s Fish (which has the best cover) and EPs The ShitKid EP, EP2 and This Is It. The sparse DIY sound of previous releases is now filled out and Detention delivers a full-on power pop record. But this pop is not candy-coated or conventional; here we have 8 songs that catalogue (or imagine) the trials and tribulations of a school-age Åsa (now in her mid-20s) as she navigates life, love and surviving school in a world that’s more Larry Clark than John Hughes.
It opens with the titular ‘Detention’, a litany of teenage trouble making: stealing her teacher’s cigarettes, accidentally starting a fire and hitting a classmate with a volleyball. This builds from bass and voice, adds drums and guitar and everything tumbles into a triumphant chorus of “That’s why I get detention”. Underpinned by infectious harmonies, this 1’57” track punches well above its weight and ends with the line “they will have to call the fucking Police on me”. Another huge chorus looms in the falling-in-love tale ‘RoMaNcE’ and this sits alongside romance falling apart in ‘Last Mistake’ and the separation anxiety of ‘SuMmEr BrEaK’. ‘Home Wondering (I don’t wanna go to prom)’ starts with a slow burning lament that ignites into a carnival of power chords. ‘Summer 18’ is a sweet song with a punch-the-air festival-pleasing chorus. ‘Grown-ups are KiDS’ is the penultimate track; a jerky diatribe on the generation gap (“I know I’m only 17 my parents says it’s just a phase”). The album closes with ‘Lost in a DreamWorld’ and this seems the least middle-finger track on the album; like Åsa is singing to herself about emerging from dark times – “Hey kiddo lift up your chin” – and coming to terms with the lost years and facing the optimism of the new. It’s a heroic and epic and spectacular.
This album is home to more massive choruses than most bands achieve in a career and they are all as catchy as a cold. I’m reminded of punk-pop act The Rezillos or more recent acts like L.A. Witch or Diet Cig and Detention has all the energy you would expect from a PNKSLM release; a label that’s also home to Sudakistan, Magic Potion, Les Big Byrd, The Mind Rays and many other fine acts. This album has a nasty streak and a heart of gold and I would advise you don’t feed it after midnight or get it wet. The more I listen to it the more I love it and, if there’s any justice, it should be a huge summer album; blaring from stereos, booming out of car windows, teasing tinnitus on mp3 players and it can only be a matter of time before you hear a ShitKid track on a cult Netflix or HBO drama. The Jekyll and Hyde of ShitKid (check out her Instagram feed or the video for ‘Oh Me I’m Never’) is delicious, intoxicating, a little frightening and always brilliant. If Detention is anything to go by Åsa Söderqvist may have to re-brand herself as HitKid.
Review by Paul F Cook