Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's Les Shirley's 'Forever Is Now'

BY Yara El-SoueidiPublished Mar 18, 2021

Punk's not dead — just listen to Forever Is Now, the debut album from Montreal trio Les Shirley.

Singer-guitarist Raphaëlle Chouinard, bassist Sarah Dion and drummer Lisandre Bourdages (the latter two of similarly minded Montrealers NOBRO) decided to form Les Shirley after a night of drinks, combining their appreciation of punk, emo and ska to make music that best represented themselves. Forever Is Now positions them as true punk rockers, and they deliver an album that goes beyond all expectations.

Every song takes inspiration from a different sound of the pop-punk era, when Californian bands reigned supreme. With "Fuck It, I'm in Love," the first few notes of guitar remind you of the distinct sound of bands signed to Epitaph Records during the '90s. Raphaëlle Chouinard's raspy voice cuts through the din, as she speeds her way through the songs — an exercise she repeats on the rapid-fire "Sadgirlsclub," a 77 seconds of explosive energy that lists all the ways women are judged by men.

Chouinard's guitar playing is excellent. Her riffs and solos, like those on "23," ring through just as distinctively as her voice. But the album doesn't rely solely on her talent. She is surrounded by Dion's masterful bass and Bourdages' fierce energy on the drums. The three women are truly at their best on "Trigger," an exercise in power that drives its force through every element it brings.

What the album lacks is a unique sound, one that belongs solely to Les Shirley. As much as it holds its own, Forever Is Now relies heavily on existing musical blueprints. It's a proven recipe that works every time. Sticking with what works seems is fine for now, but it might be an obstacle further down the road for Les Shirley. The women have mastered energetic punk, but rock ballads like "1994" and "Pick Up the Phone" slow the album down. Les Shirley pull off these slower tempos, but they don't sound quite as comfortable.

Les Shirley are already defining the punk rock scene with their strong attitude. Even if they still have some sonic exploration to do, they are still contributing to a scene that needs more bands like them. The Montreal punk rock scene has found its rightful queens in Les Shirley.

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