Friday, October 12, 2012
Present Tense - Shoes
I was shocked when I saw that Shoes had released a new album this year, "Ignition." I had no idea they were still together. They last released a new album in 1994, that is quite a gap. It doesn't look there will be a vinyl version of "Ignition" so I won't be writing about it here but I'm impressed that they are still at it and I will be buying the CD at some point. Anyway in honor of the band's return to action, I pulled out their second album, (not counting private pressings) "Present Tense." I discovered the band many years after this record came out when I got into power pop in the 1980s. All the songs are written by various combinations of guitarists Jeff Murphy and Gary Klebe and bassist John Murphy who have such homogenous styles and themes that it is tough for me to distinguish between their songs. Nearly every song is an unhappy love song, most of which feature the singer ragging on his girlfriend. A line from "Every Girl" sums up their basic theme, "every girl I've ever had, has treated me so wrong." The most ambitious song, "Three Times," is a suite with each of the three songwriters contributing a separate section, the first section features a girl breaking up with the singer, in the second part the singer wants to break up and in the final section he wins the girl by dominating her. That basically encompasses all of the band's themes on the record. A steady stream of this stuff over the course of the album comes pretty close to misogyny, particularly on a song like "Cruel You" where the singer pulls a gun on his unfaithful girlfriend hoping she'll beg for her life whereas she remains unfazed because she has so little respect for him. Maybe they've just had a lot of bad luck with the ladies, but I think they probably have issues. I find their whining a bit wearying after awhile, it is a good thing that the music is a lot more upbeat than the lyrics. "Tomorrow Night" opens the album in classic power pop style with propulsive drumming, jangly guitar lines alternating with power riffs and melodic vocals supported by harmony vocals. It is my favorite song on the album, pure pop candy. "Too Late" has more enticing vocal harmonies and a big hooky bass riff. "Hangin' Around With You" has a chugging sound and punchy style suggestive of the Cars although the ebullient chorus is pure Shoes. "In My Arms Again," "Somebody Has What I Had," "Now and Then," "I Don't Miss You," "Cruel You" and "I Don't Wanna Hear It" are riff driven rockers with strong beats and power pop amenities, right in my wheelhouse. "Your Very Eyes," "Every Girl" and "Three Times are more subdued, with their jangly guitars and pretty vocals they sound a bit like Badfinger. Musically this record is flawless, I enjoy every song and I love the band's sound. I just wish they liked their girlfriends more. Recommended to fans of the Knack.