The Shakeouts- 'Straight Edge'- Track Review.
An Australian band in their infancy, are displaying a fierce, rebellious maturity.
Availability: 'Straight Edge' is available at http://soundcloud.com/theshakeouts
This is just one selection from about half a dozen available on SoundCloud...
which is probably the most relevant website showcasing their unique sound. They have featured in the press of their native land, Australia. They themselves have colourfully described themselves as an 'eight-tentacled surf punk' of a curiosity; backed by an octopus woman, death demon, and puffer fish. It sounds like a nightmarish mix of David Lynch and Home and Away. At the moment, they are campaigning to win a slot at a prestigious festival in Brisbane, and currently have 163 'likes' on Facebook. In the developmental lifespan of their aquatic crossbreed, there are at the larvae stage. Don't be fooled by thinking that 'new' is a synonym for unfocused or half-baked. It is true that there is but a mere smattering of songs available via the Internet, but they have a tireless blue-collar campaign spirit; a 21st century Manifest Destiny to their ambition, sound and combustible firepower.
When one thinks of the music of Australia, once you get the impression of didgeridoos, Rolf Harris and surf scenes, complete with long-maned guitar strummers exculpating their prurient end-game. There is no Summer Bay or Ramsey Street middle-of-the-road indie and over-emotive balladeering; nor any novelty or indigenous noise making. Whether it is the British influence (back in a time where the British had colonised the country) that enforces the sound of The Shakeouts, or whether they are inspired by equivocal U.S. acts is an enigma I'd love to unravel. If you dip back into the catalogue of their native output over the last 40 years, a large swathe of worldwide mega talent has emerged from the wizards of Oz. INXS, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Kyle Minogue, Silverchair, Crowded House, Midnight Oil, The Avalanches, AC/DC, and most epically of all; wife-collecting, body oil salesman and nightclub opener extraordinaire Peter Andre. Although he lives 5 miles from me, so Australia got lucky on that one!
Upon being greeted with The Shakeouts' back catalogue I notice they have a glorious knack for titles. 'Octopus Woman', 'Night Surfer', and most memorable of the lot, 'Surfing with the Death Demon' spring to mind. I was tempted to review them as well to see if the music could live up to the slightly Baroque titles. The track 'Straight Edge' begins like a harder edged interpretation of the intro. to The Cure's 'Close To Me'. It is an intriguing smoke signal, that beckons you closer, unaware of the hording nautical army, waiting over the precipice. There is a slight indentation of The Doors, circa 'Riders on the Storm', albeit a looser, less tempered version of it. The drumbeat, cymbal and build up is reminiscent of some of the modern British rock crop, such as Kasabian and Cold War Kids. As the sea bubbles and froths, from a '60s rock vibe to a beast of bouncy candour, the vocal enters the mix. It has a punk edge to it, chained and subservient to begin with as the opening line, "I love the way that you smile", is proclaimed; the 'smile' elongated, with a pleasing familiarity to its diction and enunciation. Just when you think we are heading off to a punk thoroughfare, all broken windows, cigarette ash and piercings in the most inaccessible nether regions, the tone shifts again. Electric guitar comes in to supplement the solid bass-line. It is scuzzy, blues-indebted, corpulent and distorted. Put in your mind 'Black Math' from The White Stripes' 'Elephant' and you get a sense of the lo-tech awesomeness that is about to be unleashed. The guitar is altogether funkier and- in a White Stripes analogy- has flavour notes of an introverted 'Hand Springs'. It punches and pounds at the senses, and is an instantly likeable and memorable hook. It is guaranteed to pitch stool on your tongue for the foreseeable future and announce itself at the most embarrassingly inconvenient times. There are tones of the '60s hit 'Money', as performed by The Beatles, as if they had been given full access to an electronic arsenal of grunt and innovation. In just over a minute, the band have introduced the players, presented a number of different twists and turns, and unfurled a cocoon of barbed wire, before standing their singer up to survey the wreckage. She has a pleasing individuality to her voice. There are influences of Joe Strummer and The Kills, but with fewer rough edges, and an overall more soothing tone. She has a raw authentic blues edge to her sound and has a great range as well. As the song progressing, there is a brief injunction; a fuse of The Lizzards' 'Money That's What I Want' and The Clash's 'Should I Stay or Should I Go'. It is a great testament to the band that they produce such a fresh sound. Sure there are hints of this and that to the trained ear, but everything here is new and alive. It does not wistfully long for days and bands past. It has a clear white testament and is begging for your attention. The infectious riff is riden for maximum affect, defying you not to dance and fist-pump along with it. The vocal comes back in and a real vivid sense of anarchic storytelling comes to play: "If I hit the bottle every night every day/You would get up and leave/You would not stay", starts us off before she explains that she would "go straight edge for you". Nota bene, the title refers to a song of the same name, by 1980s band Minor Threat. In that track, Ian MacKaye's explains his straight edge philosophy. He had better things than to hang out with dead-heads and wasters. It was revolutionary, as it emerged from the dungeon of hardcore punk hedonism and excess of the time, and propagated the abstinence of alcohol, tobacco, promiscuous sex and drug use; extending as far to promote a vegan diet. In the case of our Australian friends, the heroine of the song is saying she would commit to a clean life and give all of her bad habits and proclivities up, if it meant a stable relationship. It is a clever allusion to a tangible past, and quite a radical and underused sentiment during the 'oos. Our heroine goes on to implore that "all she wants is you and me". Around the 2:20 marker, there is a great moment of free-form solo work. It wails, contorts and belches black smoke, staggering locomotive and tattooed. The volume is turned down, and the awaiting army is seen in the distance. The lyrics tell of how sobriety and stability are better than pills, booze and chaos. Just then the guitar and drums pick up and gain more momentum. In a way it is like 'Zorba The Greek' in its pattern and sound. You can imagine a taverna filled with rambunctious revellers, plates smashing all over the place, arms flailing and legs kicking in a wild dervish of revelry. It goes a bit 'The White Stripes'/'White Blood Cells', a little 'The Stooges', and begs you defy it. And like that it is done. It is over 3:30 minutes, but damn it, I wanted more!
There is much to recommend about the track. It blends punk, blues and rock together brilliantly. The central riff is memorable and a striking thing. Sort of sounds like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and 'Rush Hour Soul' slowed and given knuckle dusters. I love the guitar work throughout and is effective and gives the song a necessary swing and bite. The entire band are brilliant, and each player simultaneously create a fresh live sound, and a studied studio feel to things. The vocal is strong and raw where it needs to be, composed and subtle at other times. It is fantastic that there are so many different shifts and sounds within one song, and the track is tight and muscular.
If I had to point at suggestions, maybe giving it a crisp edge would help bring out the overall effect. If it were put back into the studio and cleaned up slightly, it would not take anything away from its hard edge and guts. The song itself is brilliant; it's just a track I would love to see on an E.P. very soon. I want it louder, crisper, perhaps with the drums given more prominence, and the vocals brought higher into the mix. The vocal is strong but would like to hear a bit more force and volume to emphasise the lyrics. There are not many great hard rock/punk female singers on the scene at the moment, and The Shakeouts have one. I would like to hear that highlighted. Maybe double-track some of the chorus, have backing vocals, and to assimilate itself with the catchy riff, possibly giving some of the vocals echo or re-verb, would add intensity and sexiness, whilst staying true to the lyrics. The lyrics themselves are great, and I was impressed by the theme and context of the song. Contained within are noble sentiments, home truths and inspirational messages, if you are willing to look for them.
And you should look. You should check out the remainder of their tracks too, and try to liberate their unique and refreshing sound to a wider sphere. There are plenty of people in the U.K., U.S. and Europe who would take to the band passionately, and there is plenty of room for them. It is with support and fan patronage that they will accomplish this. I will safely and confidentally rubber stamp this track with my fondest approval. They are at an early stage and the band admit themselves that the songs they have, including this one, were written a few months ago, and are pretty raw. But that is the sound they are going for. With a bit of studio polish (but not too much), and a legion of fans ready to snap up their music, The Shakeouts will be huge. Take the band into your hearts, and seek them out...
... before Peter Andre covers one of their tracks.