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.
I Just Met My Match
All I Love
Don't Understand Her
Bands From New York
The Reason For Your Sin
Today I Live...
...Tonight I Die
Live Love Dance Die
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