Monday, April 18, 2005


Shack Week

Nothing fancy, and not chock full of rarities, this week will be an overview of Shack, following up on last week's post about the rerelease of their long out of print debut album Zilch. This may be more for Americans than for people from other countries: I know that Shack aren't big stars or anything at home, but my sense is that they're really, really not well known in the US.

I'll start with their most recent album.

Here's Tom With The Weather came out without much fanfare in 2003, taking me by surprise (click here to see a short clip that includes the sketch that gives the CD its title). The CD that preceded it, HMS Fable, was an incredible failed shot at a hit, somewhat along the lines of Oasis but smarter and subtler. In contrast to that, Here's Tom feels like a band come back down to earth.

[If you're not a regular reader, you might be under the impression that I'm a huge Oasis fan. I'm not, though I do think their first album was sort of promising. For one album, Shack were kind of comparable to Oasis, but it's not that great a similarity and probably has more to do with production than anything else. It's just that if HMS Fable had hit, it probably would have hit with the same people who made Oasis big in the US. Make sense?]

Reviews of Here's Tom tend to use words like "lush," "gorgeous," "understated" and "autumnal," which is often a bad sign, indicative that someone has just put out an album full of nicely recorded crap. Initially I wrote Here's Tom off as boring. After a few years, I've decided that the problem with it has more to do with sequencing, and the lack of one or two more upbeat tracks to pick up the pace. Song for song it's fine, but taken as a whole it's one of those mid-tempo records that can bog down if you're not in exactly the right mood. My advice: shuffle its tracks in with poppier things, and they'll sound just fine.

From it, here's Chinatown which harks back a little bit to HMS Fable (since I'm spending the whole week on the band, and since Here's Tom is in print, I'm going to be stingier than usual with the mp3s). This is one of the more upbeat tracks, so if you drink a lot of coffee, look elsewhere for your entertainment needs. Be aware, though, that you'll be missing an amazine Love-style song, complete w/mariachi interlude, called Meant To Be, as well as a number of quasi-folkie gems. I've known a fair number of people who were underwhelmed by this album, but as of now I'd call it a worthwhile, though slow-growing, investment.

For anyone who's not interested in Shack or Chinatown, here's Twinn Connection performing 6th Avenue Stroll. The twins are backed by Carolyn Hester's Coalition, Carolyn Hester being the woman who gave Bob Dylan his big break. This is from the Twinn's self-titled (and only) album from 1968, which apparently came out on CD in Korea (I haven't a clue on the details but it seems to be available here).

Chinatown by Shack
6th Avenue Stroll by Twinn Connection

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