Shut Up Cain
Blue Grey Pink
Some artists just want to have their fingers in all the pies and Perth’s Michael Strong is definitely one. As Young Girl, he makes music that could be classed under the insufferable term IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). Channelling the work of Aphex Twin or Squarepusher, his 2019 album A Marshmallow Called Moon and 2020’s The Night Mayor showcased his ability to craft intricately thoughtful beats. As a member of The Disappointed, he made 2019’s record Escapism full of darkened and energetic alt-rock. To really rub it in, Strong is also the sound engineer at Beaufort St. Songwriters Club.
Now he’s working under another disguise, this time going by Alyosha to create pop-rock that falls just on the right side of eccentricity. His debut album, Shut Up Cain, was released on October 30 via Blue Grey Pink (Cosy, Odlaw). The album release came with huge statements of intent, described as a “spiritual reckoning” that had helped Strong find his “way out of hopelessness and nihilism.” The record was about “finally understanding that meaninglessness…nihilism – it’s all wrong.”
You can hear this throughout the eight tracks on Shut Up Cain. Strong’s voice is resolute and commanding – the tone of a man who knows what he wants to say. This starts immediately from the opening song, Hatchet Man, with his voice dripping with attitude underneath a screeching electric guitar. “You have to stand/ You have to walk/ You have to be a man,” are his lines of advice.
Alyosha channels New Zealand’s wonderful purveyor of intelligent pop-rock, Lawrence Arabia, during You Will Be Enough, with twinkling keys ensuring the atmosphere is one of buoyancy and joy. He then slows the tempo down on Hateful, with his moodiness reflecting the track’s title. “I was so arrogant/ So hateful/ I was a shadow/ So hateful,” he cries. This song and the following one, Where The Demons Call, is the only time where he sounds tired and frustrated, reflecting his journey.
Should We Make A Baby is a return to the overarching lightheartedness of the record. The zinging synths remind one of Passion Pit or LCD Soundsystem; and as Strong ponders “I’m sentimental lately/ Should we make a baby?”, he bears much in common with the latter’s James Murphy and his growing contention with being middle-aged. Leviathan brings the album to a close (another biblical reference following Cain), and it’s a climactic and fierce ending to the record.
With this Alyosha project, Strong has produced pop-rock with a conscience. His endeavour seems ambitious but it feels sincere. His message is simple and it will find an audience. You have to stand. You have to walk. You have to be a moral human.