CD Review – The Shoes – “Ignition”
Its been 18 years since the last Shoes studio album, an extraordinarily long time in the world of Rock, although hardly more than a nano-second in the career of a band whose career spans nearly 40 years.
This is Shoes after all, a group whose name was taken from an offhanded comment made by Lennon and McCartney when asked how the Beatles chose their handle. (John: “That’s just a name, like ‘shoe.’ Paul: “’The Shoes.’ See, we could’ve been called “The Shoes” for all you know.”)
The irony — the tragedy really — is that for all the time gone by, the world at large has been largely oblivious, opting instead to ignore an ensemble that by all rights ought to be considered one of America’s musical treasures. One could chalk this neglect up to the fact that they specialize in Power Pop, a genre that often appears past its prime, but the reality is that such a narrow definition fails to do them justice.
It’s fortunate then that in spite of the time that’s elapsed since their last effort, Propeller the aptly titled Ignition, finds they’re still well equipped to take flight. As always, they specialize in catchy and concise melodies that sound as if they’ve been gelling forever in the ethos and suddenly served up at will.
Equally impressive is the fact that music comes from the same core combo — the Shoes’ one-size-fits-all approach, so to speak — brothers Jeff and John Murphy and bandmate Gary Klebe, with the sole assist coming from longtime drummer-for -hire John Richardson. Consequently, no extraneous instrumentation or over the top arrangements get in the way of their deft delivery. Sturdy, confident and unerringly rich and radiant, songs such as “Diminishing Returns,” “Wrong Idea” and “Sign of Life” soar on the strength of billowing harmonies, effortless hooks and ready refrains. “Hot Mess,” unusually edgy by Shoes standards, sounds a lot like Keith Richards at the helm of the Stones. Evensong such as “Out of Round,” which underscores the difficulty of dealing with love and loss, comes across as tuneful and assuring. “Do what we wanna do/We’ll do it anyway/Do what we wanna do/Livin’ for today/Only we remain,” they declare on album closer “Only We Remain.”