Friday, August 05, 2005

S, I (W)

Shift- Spacesuit

Man, the story about Shift is, well, storied.

First time I saw ‘em was at the (first) Space in Worcester, with Cast Iron Hike and Iris. Texas Is The Reason was supposed to play, headline, but they had van trouble or something. Everyone was disappointed, but Shift’s melodic leaning post-core rock did the trick. They looked like the Mod Squad, I remember: skinny white singer/guitarist, bass player with ‘fro, chick drummer. Awesome. Everyone in the room, it seemed, knew the words to ‘Dress Up’, the sensitive ballad-y song that would have been the last song at the Equal Vision Prom. I went out and found myself a copy of ‘Spacesuit.’

I probably saw Shift play five times at the various incarnations of The Space. They were a band that took addresses for their mailing list. Unlike most, they actually sent stuff. I still have a mailer postcard pasted in an old journal. I enjoyed the music, and I enjoyed the fact that the band was workin’ it.

Shift signed to some major label right when I moved to Boston. No more photocopied postcards after that. Instead, I got a CD in the mail one day (which I wish I had saved) titled ‘The Get Rich Quick Scheme.’ No shit. Overproduced pap with all the edges shaved off, featuring a song titled ‘I Want To Be Rich’. The chorus went like this: “I want to be rich/ Rich beyond my wildest dreams/ and I want everyone to love me.” Don’t even get me started on what a copout half-assed irony can be.

Wanna sign to a major? Why the fuck not? Brotha’s gotta eat. But signing to a major and then putting out a record that alienates a painstakingly acquired fanbase is something entirely different. Enough time has passed since their stab at the ring so I can listen to and enjoy ‘Spacesuit’ once again. It took a while, though. Sadly.

Shiner- The Egg

Never thought too much of Shiner- they were always the kind of band that received hype when they dropped albums, but were always just a few bucks away in the used bin (in retrospect, quite probably the kind of hype that comes from teenaged ‘zine editors who are just stoked to be getting free records- believe you me, I know the drill). I bought and sold back a bunch of their stuff over the years, then hit a wall and gave up.

A few years back, a bunch of my friends reported seeing this fucking amazing band play- Shiner. I checked out ‘The Egg’, and goddamn is it ever a fine slab.

I think I like the record so much because of its subtlety. All four band members are these amazing musicians, each playing/singing crazy lines that link up in such a way that you get a general feel for each song. Upon repeated listens, though, the nuances of performance come through and strengthen each number. These are guys weaned on classic D.C. post-punk sounds/tricks playing together to create a whole that far surpasses the sum of the incredibly well-versed and technical parts. Heavy, challenging, pretty, and damn near essential, I’ll say it.

Shipping News- Very Soon, And In Pleasant Company

Warning: way more namechecks than the USDA approves for daily use.

So two of the three guys in the Shipping News used to be in Rodan, and man, do I ever LOVE Rodan. Missed the boat, never saw ‘em play, but I’ve seen a lot of the spinoff bands.

Every time the Shipping News comes to town, I go see them with my friend Leslie. She was there back in the day, actually saw Rodan, and is friends with all those guys, so I get to hang out with Leslie while she hangs out with her friends in the band, so, by transitive property, I’m hangin’ out, too, dig?

(I am such a dork.)

So Leslie has been my show date for maybe the last three times Shipping News have come through. One of those tours was for the series of hand-stitched (no shit) CD EP’s they put out, and another was for ‘Very Soon, And In Pleasant Company.’ Considering the band’s pedigree (the aforementioned Rodan, June of 44, Rachel’s, etc.), it should come as no surprise that ‘Very Soon’ is boat rock- creaking riggings thrown off-time by sudden blasts of gale, beautiful sunrises following evenings of sweltering humidity and finally rain. Waves crashing against the hull as fins circle and loom nearby.

On the most recent tour, I took a train over to the ‘Tigs, where Leslie and I had a sandwich, then headed to Great Scott, the former frat bar repossessed by the hipster sect. Leslie bumped into Jason, the bass player, and the two of ‘em went outside to talk. I went out, too. Within a few minutes, Ed wandered by- I had called to tell him about the show earlier.

“Dude,” I told him, “I’m totally wearing my Bill Mueller shirt.”

See, Bill Mueller (pronounced Miller) is the third baseman for the Red Sox, my favorite player on the team. The guitarist of the Shipping News is Jeff Mueller (pronounced Mule-er).

(As of this writing on July 25th, Mueller’s name is being bandied about in trade rumors. If he gets traded I’m wearing all black for a week, summer be damned- he’s my favorite guy on the team.)

So me and Leslie and Ed and Jason hung out for a while, then went back inside for the show. I hadn’t had enough to drink to walk up to Jeff Mueller and tell him about my Bill Mueller t-shirt, so I was just kinda standing there, waiting for the show to start.

Ed doesn’t give a fuck- he’ll talk to anyone. He was talking to Jeff Mueller, kinda pointing at me, so I walked over and Ed was saying “this guy’s wearing a crazy shirt” or something like that. I go over and Jeff Mueller’s like “Oh, Bill Mueller. I was rooting for the Red Sox last year.”

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