Album Review | Shannon and the Calms :Dreams In the Rat House
I have to admit, I am a Shannon and the Clams fan boy. As President of the fan club, please address your letters to Justin Barney A.K.A. The Intern at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.
I have been in love since I heard Shannon Shaw’s delicate longing in the song "You Will Always Bring Me Flowers" off their 2011 release Sleep Talk. Shannon and the Clams are a rock ‘n’ roll band. This is not rock ’n’ roll in the sense that it is guitar shredding. They are a three piece set that hinge largely on rather simple cord progressions. Shannon and the Clams have the true essence of rock ‘n’ roll. They are songs of youth rebellion, late night longing, and cutting a rug. Their sound also pulls from 1960’s beach rock, concentrating on three string guitar picking and adequate distortion. However, they manage to incorporate these classic sounds with new Bay Area beach punk that will make your heart break and knees shake at the same time.
Shannon Shaw’s voice is reason enough to listen to their new album Dreams In The Rat House. Her voice is like a mixture of the Shangri-Las and Roy Orbison with the reverb turned all the way up. It is not just her range that stands out, she uses a country music style “ cry break” that ques the listener into heartbreak even if they can’t hear the lyrics through the reverb. It is the kind of hiccup sound on tracks from this album like “Rip Van Winkle”.
The lyrics themselves are a stand out aspect of Shannon and the Clams. Many of these Bay Area lo-fi bands like Ty Segall, The Oh Sees, Black Lips, etc, just let the distortion replace sound lyrics. This is not the case for Shannon and the Clams. Often times they can be simplistic, but they build off of each other and tell a story. In the song “Unlearn” it is a young romance between a boy and girl, who make a pact that says, “I promise not to sulk in my room, if you don’t sulk in yours/ summer comes back every year, so keep up with your chores.” The dialogue works because of the second half of the Clams, Cody Blanchard, who sings back up, records and mixes all Shannon and the Clams albums, and has written or co-written at least half of the group’s discography.
If you are looking for an album to play in the sunshine of Bradford Beach, or when you are looking for a side to play at your next party, put Yeezus down, grab Shannon and the Clams, and twist the night away.