‘Mark Twain’ is the new single by Shelf Lives a duo of South London-based singer Sabrina and guitarist/producer Jonny (via Toronto and Northampton) and produced by Space who has worked with IDLES . Similar to previous release ‘Shelf Life’ there’s a lot packed into this sub-3-minute track. Basic, blown out drum machine crunches away while vocals mix monotone delivery and frustrated shouts of “I get the feeling and I get the love, but I can’t get the words out”, a mantra that runs throughout the song, along with lines like “I cannot care for the love that is on display” and “Hiding their face under miles of lace what’s their aim Mark Twain”. The band say the song is their ‘treatise on personal authenticity and self-expression’.
The video is directed by Florence Poppy Deary and Francesca Van Haverbeke (aka FLAN) who also directed the video for ‘Shelf Life’ and once again they have demonstrated their penchant for uncapping a fire hydrant of warped, visual imagery. We enter this weird world through a child picking up a Viewmaster and starting to click through images (God knows what these images would do to a child, but better have a therapist on standby). There are heads in buckets, plastic and stockings, chips up noses, mask snogging, ear licking, head phone, cake head, kettle head, bread head all delivered with Sabrina and Jonny staring resolutely into our souls.
Even if the video makes you feel as queasy as riding on a Pendolino train it’s a lo-fi delight and matches the compelling nature of the track. The rhythmic beat and delivery of ‘Mark Twain’ hook you in and I played it over and over and over, so I could keep getting those sweet little dopamine hits from this crunchy, chewy, fuzzed up, querulous, drone-swirl of a song. There is as mini-album planned for April 2022 so check and follow Shelf Lives on their socials as well as all good steaming platforms so you won’t miss out.
Review by Paul F Cook