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GaRock: The Shakedowns 
By Travis Becker

Like the Swing music revival before it, the Garage revival has proved an unlikely success.  Unlike Swing, however, and what makes that success even more baffling, Garage was never popular in a commercial sense the first time around beyond a couple of one-ff radio hits.  Why critics should trumpet Garage as the new king of hip new music smacks a little of fashion over substance.  The very term Garage is one of those ultra-vague record company-applied labels for the endless stream of sloppy rock and roll coming out of any one of a dozen cities across the United States faster than high school prom sex.  I have yet to confirm whether The Shakedowns, one band among the wave of these new Garage bands to emerge, actually practice or perform in a garage, thus warranting the label.  What they do bring to the table, with their latest self-titled effort, is a good party record full of energy and a strong commitment to looking good in a pair of thrift-store jeans and a t-shirt for some defunct 1970's softball team. 

The Shakedowns hail from Washington, D.C., a long time hotbed for edgy music and devoted scenesters.  Rather than following the path of such Indie giants as Minor Threat and Bad Brains, the Shakedowns stay well away from punk territory and keep their Beatle-boots and Converse All-Stars glued to the road that made rock great, bass, drums, guitars and songs about having a good time.  This is no messy, overdriven, Strokes record, however.  The Shakedowns, unlike their more successful counterparts from New York City, actually seem to care more about making decent records than they do about having cutesy names and matching scarves.  They have the experience to back it up (they've been around since 1999) and with Seattle super-producer, Jack Endino (Mark Lanegan, Skinyard), turning the knobs, the Shakedowns have crafted an album of solid songs that doesn't run out of steam and never fails to pick it up.  This isn't intellectual music, it isn't trippy or crushing and any new frontiers for this music have already been conquered by the likes the MC5 and the New York Dolls.  The Shakedowns possess some of the flamboyance, musically speaking, of the latter.

As for the album itself, the production is unspectacular but somehow it fits the music perfectly.  Anything more would seem overdone.  All of the instruments blend together well and their guitarist gets a few moments in the spotlight with some wild soloing.  The overall sound is jangling without falling all to pieces and ultimately there's enough meat on its bones to chew on a while.  Most of the songs sort of settle in together like a flavorful mush of loud amps and bouncy drums, although, some songs begin to grate with their sheer repetitiveness.  See, "Bands from New York" for details on that.  The singer has a sort of, just-walked-off-the-street sound that wasn't particularly to my taste, but if you're into this kind of music he probably won't turn you off.  He's certainly a step up from Julio Charlemagne Guevara or whatever the singer for the Strokes is calling himself these days.  The lyrics aren't exactly top shelf, but it's hard to fault them for it, after all, Garage is basically a mixture of bubblegum pop and musical incompetency.

The Shakedowns aren't the new Rolling Stones or even the new Troggs.  The last song of the album probably states their point best, "Live, Love, Dance, Die."  Not a bad philosophy and there's little more you can ask for from Rock and Roll.  This is a record you'll reach for and play a few times when you're in a good mood and you're wishing Iggy and Stooges were still around.  

In the end though, the Shakedowns self-titled, 2004 release will come to define Garage more literally.  You'll come across their record in a box while cleaning the actual garage.  Right next to the lawnmower. 
 



CD Info 

The Shakedowns
Label: VMS/Morphius
Rating
 
Tracks:
Get Up
You'll Pop
I Just Met My Match
Junkie Junkie
All I Love
Arrogance
Don't Understand Her
Bands From New York
The Reason For Your Sin
Today I Live...
...Tonight I Die
Live Love Dance Die
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online


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