If passion were all that counted, Shinobu would have it made. Worstward, Ho!, their sophomore effort, is driven by an energy so genuinely desperate that frontman Mike Moroboshi-Huguenor is seemingly one step away from completely throwing his voice out on the album opener, "T-T-T-Trepanning." Thankfully, this doesn't happen, and he manages to get his vocal cords under control as the album progresses. The Cali-based indie rock crew has to be an admirer of Jawbreaker and the Weakerthans, the phrasing and delivery of songs like "Regular Love Triangle" and "Beijing Bears" quite obvious of especially the latter band's influence. Shinobu play loose and vivaciously, and it's refreshing that the guys seem totally unaware, or at least completely unconcerned, with the trends and fashions sported by so many of their peers in 2006. But despite this appreciated carefree enthusiasm, Worstward, Ho! would make for a much more compelling album if the guys would learn to tighten their songs up, instead of allowing many of them to drift off by the end. Just as the jangly "Hail, Hail the Executioner" starts off strong only to ultimately lose steam with an extended three-minute instrumental closing, other songs also begin with great bursts of energy before needlessly getting drawn out and simply fading away. Some tracks seem barely written at around a minute and half in length, which unfairly makes the ones that hit the three- and four-minute marks seem rather long. More concise songwriting would not only fit better with Shinobu's scrappy and spirited personality, but also help to make a less haphazard album overall. Worstward, Ho! certainly showcases a band with potential, but Shinobu really need to focus their energies if they want to come up with anything really memorable.
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AllMusic Review by Corey Apar