ShitKid is one of the first PNKSLM acts I saw live, and I got hooked by an artist who was impish, petulant, and obviously talented at writing catchy, sandpaper-pop songs. 20/20 follows a string of albums and EPs released over the last few years and, amazingly, it’s the third ShitKid release in 2020 after the Melvins/Paul Leary collaboration Duo Limbo/“Mellan himmel å helvete and the original motion picture soundtrack Always Amber. This album is the product of two major influences on ShitKid (real name: Åsa Söderqvist): her break from bassist Lina Molarin (a strong collaborative force as well as the cause of fun and chaos) and the COVID pandemic which meant that a tour supporting the Duo Limbo album was cancelled happen thus allowing unexpected time for writing and recording once more as a solo artist.
After the bombastic rock- pop of Detention and Duo Limbo/“Mellan himmel å helvete”, 20/20 is a midway point between those albums and the more stripped back sound on earlier releases like 2017’s Fish with a ton of indolent energy packed into its eight tracks. If this is your first listen to ShitKid then Söderqvist’s delivery can jar at first but once you get your ear in, you realise that there’s a perfect marriage of voice and song. The opening track ‘885 (navy)’ begins with a woozy, lone guitar drenched in reverb which gives way to crunchy chords and vocals that sound like they were recorded just after Söderqvist had woken up. This woozy feel runs throughout many of tracks: ‘FARMBOY’ feels like a slow-motion fairground ride right up until the slide guitar explosion, ‘Cool Breeze’ mixes a slow synth-string start with bursts of fuzz guitar and both ‘waste of time’ and ‘dying to’ feature neon-lit burbles of synth-bass lines interrupted by splashy volcanic choruses that could have come out of any 60s hit. ‘dream sequence’ and ‘FREAK’ both sound like warped vinyl filtered through a thousand chillums and ‘stubborn signs’ ends the record in a low-key fashion like a cigarette slowly burning out in an ashtray.
I find ShitKid’s mixture of half-awake and half-defibrillation intoxicating, like having a fire evacuation when you’re stoned. Like all exceptional artists no one else could pull off the alchemy of their music; you can’t be ShitKid if you are not ShitKid. Her popularity grows every year but often in my daydreams I imagine that, in a parallel universe, the PNKSLM label is bigger than Universal or Sony and that garage, psych and lo-fi are the real musical currency instead of cynically made, focus-group pop. In this universe ShitKid is as big as Madonna and James Bay is busking for pennies in an underpass in Croydon wondering where it all went wrong.
As an aside, having been at so many PNKSLM gigs over the last four years I have seen ShitKid/ Åsa Söderqvist crush every shows but I also love the fact that when the other bands are on she will be down the front dancing, crowd surfing and generally having a better time than most paying punters. Living music, playing music, loving music – not a bad credo for an artist.
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Review by Paul F Cook