I am passionate about few things. And most of those things hover around debauchery and immorality. But the new album, Shrimp Attack! from Stuart Hyatt and the Shrimp Attack Collective has got a firm grip somewhere in my chest, where there still hides a ragged suggestion of a soul. I’m not sure where it’s pulling or pushing, but it feels good.
I marginalize people on a daily basis. It makes life much easier. Push away the unwanted, the mentally disabled and anyone else whom I might have to spend a few extra minutes of my life understanding. Shrimp Attack! nudges my inhumanity and asks for a second chance.
This album isn’t a morality trip. It’s a simple request.
Since I have no talent for such things, here is a description of the album from the Team Records website:
“Shrimp Attack is a fifty-member collective of artists and musicians. The first album, the eponymous Shrimp Attack, is an orchestral pop epic that tells the story of marginalized souls fighting for love and acceptance. The initial limited edition pressing comes packaged in unique hand-made cardboard binders. To coincide with the album's release, the artist collective created an outdoor sculpture installation, designed a clothing line and accessories, and hosted a giant shrimp boil. All proceeds from the initial release helped to fund the programs at Creative Clay, a non-profit arts center that allows artists with developmental disabilities create and exhibit their work.
Shrimp Attack has been re-released by innova recordings, the label of The American Composers Forum. This special limited edition release comes in handmade packages, featuring drawings and text by the member artists of Creative Clay, assembled with ninja tree seeds in a U.S. army canteen pouch used in the Vietnam War era.”
And from innova recordings, the distributor’s website:
“For his second release on innova, Stuart Hyatt has assembled a most unusual group of performers. The new album, Shrimp Attack, chronicles Hyatt’s extended musical collaboration with the member artists of Creative Clay, a non-profit arts center that allows adults with developmental disabilities to create and exhibit their work. These artists have never been recorded before; their heartbreaking lyrics and powerful voices cast a stunning light onto Hyatt’s lo-fi orchestral pop arrangements.
The resulting nine tracks loosely follow an epic wartime narrative. Each song also manages to reflect the engaging spirit of marginalized people finally having their voices heard. On the song Good, Mike, who only says a few words ever (Good…good stuff…big hot dog….yummy), becomes the inspiration for a rousing call and response rock song. On another, March, Mark plays the role of The Shrimp Commander, announcing his plans for domination, but falls into a spiritual stupor. Another song, Ben’s House, features lead vocals by a man who never speaks at all. Hyatt describes the song’s germination: “Ben lives in a mysterious world…but seemed excited to participate…he doesn’t really hear or speak… I put the headphones on and turned the beat up REALLY loud…and Ben began to tap his chest and hum…the result is really beautiful.”
The voices on the album are haunting. The lyrics are sometimes garbled and incoherent, but their meaning is not lost. I found myself digging though the liner notes to make sure I heard what I heard. The music is very enjoyable with both simple instrumentation and complex arrangements. I cannot seem to get this CD out of my player. Or my iTunes. Or my head.
Hyatt has taken on a very complex and difficult issue. And the making of the album, the process, is the answer to that issue. You do not need to give these people a voice, they have one. Give them an opportunity to speak and listen to what they say. They want what we all want. Life. Love. Simple respect.
I cannot promise you that I will go out tomorrow and change the world. I’ll still be the same son of a bitch. But I will see others in a different light. Not with pity or artificial benevolence. Just with simple humanity.
If you have the opportunity, check out the Team Records website and listen to some snippets of the album. If you like what you hear, head over to innova and buy the album. When it wins a Grammy for best packaging, you’ll feel special.
Plus, the album comes with Ninja Tree seeds. No one should be without a Ninja Tree.