Black Vinyl (CD)
By John M. Borack
Beginning life as one of the guiding lights of the DIY power-pop scene with a few home-brewed releases in the mid-‘70s, Shoes eventually got signed to Elektra Records, released a slew of wonderfully melodic albums up through the mid-‘90s, and gradually faded into relative obscurity, with their catalog remaining revered by fans of pure pop deliciousness. Now the band is back in the game in a big way with their first new record in 18 years, the top-notch Ignition.
Blessed with three talented singer/songwriters in John Murphy, Jeff Murphy and Gary Klebe (joined here by drummer John Richardson), Shoes’ stock in trade has always been marrying sweet vocals and catchy, guitar-based arrangements to often sour lyrical tales of heartbreak and romance. Like the Ramones, Shoes have their own special modus operandi that works for them and they don’t deviate from the tried and true on Ignition, which is a very good thing indeed.
Each of the 15 tracks here is unfailingly melodic, with the warm, inviting sound that Shoes fans have come to know and love. The Brothers Murphy and Klebe still sing as good as ever, their instrumental abilities have sharpened with age (check Klebe’s nifty guitar soloing on the circular Jeff Murphy composition “Out Of Round” for some proof) and pretty much everything here will worm its way into the listener’s subconscious in short order – as good power pop should.
The list of highlights on Ignition is long, but easy favorites include the disc-opening “Head vs. Heart,” which glides along on some spiky guitar, with trademark Shoes harmonies and a bit of synthesized six-string adding flavor; Jeff Murphy’s “The Joke’s On You,” which successfully channels the Byrds; the bittersweet “Where Will it End,” which features a nice blend of acoustic and electric guitars propelling the melody; and John Murphy’s splendid “Wrong Idea,” which is perhaps the poppiest track here.
The only iffy moment here is the cock-rock pastiche “Hot Mess,” which features silly lyrics such as “she’s got a lopsided grin/when she don’t know where she’s been/she’s my possible kin.” Otherwise, it’s smooth sailing all the way, with Ignition sure to be remembered as one of the pure pop highlights of 2012. Welcome back, Shoes. (www.shoeswire.com.)