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Spider Bags - Shake My Head

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Artist: Spider Bags

Album: Shake My Head

Label: Odessa

Review date: Aug. 7, 2012

About six years ago, Dan McGee pulled up stakes in New Jersey and moved to North Carolina, bringing with him a dog-eared collection of songs too countrified for his main gig (at the time), the DC Snipers. Since then his Spider Bags — currently McGee plus Gregg Levy and Steve Oliva switching from bass to guitar and Rick Forbes on drums — have made three raggedly glorious albums: 2007’s A Celebration of Hunger, 2009’s Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Cruel World and now Shake My Head.

Along the way, McGee seems to have upped the punk and decreased the twang. Where Nathan Hogan compared Celebration-era Spider Bags to the Bloodshot roster, Shake My Head sounds more like Goner’s anarchic, first-generation-urban blues. There’s an instrumental track dedicated to Shawn Cripps of The Limes, a nod to John Wesley Coleman’s working-man’s poetry and blowsy psychedelia, a hint of Greg Cartwright’s hoarse romanticism here. (The Goner vibe is not entirely coincidental. Cripps and Coleman both play on “Shawn Cripps Boogie,” while Cripps and Jack Oblivian contribute to “Simona La Ramona.”) There are a couple of fantastic bangers — “Friday Night,” “Keys to the City” — and some early rock and soul-tinged ballads that sound like Mark Sultan. There is not a lot of country, not straight-up roadhouse country anyway, just a whiff of the Stones-circa-Let It Bleed’s strung-out electric blues.

So, maybe with DC Snipers on hiatus, McGee was able to revisit his punk roots, powering rueful 99 percent-er stories with a pogo beat. “Keys to the City” screeches on two wheels, speeding over a desolate, dead-end small-town landscape with a reckless, fuck-it-all glee. “Been living in this city my whole life / now I’m cheating on my girlfriend with my ex-wife,” McGee barks. It’s not that you can’t go home again; it’s that you can never leave. Later on “The Shape I’m In,” McGee mordantly observes, “I can’t keep a phone and I can barely pay the rent and the car I own I only really own the debt,” but redeems the whole sorry state of affairs with a walloping chorus. “Friday Night” is like The Replacements, striking big bravado power chords, strutting and stumbling and mumbling in the praise of drinking and fighting. The chorus careens along at near falsetto range, everyone in unison, everyone grinning like idiots (you imagine), possibly a little hammered, but not enough to obscure the pointlessness of it all.

These are two fantastic fist-pumping, beer-chugging anthems, but the surprise in this album is how good the other stuff can be. The best song of all is the slow, shimmery “Quetzalcoatl Love Song,” which begins in hollowed-out blues and flowers into extravagant psychedelia. Its chorus, almost obliterated by the wall-of-guitars climax, is the most sweeping and beautiful on the record. There is nothing country, nothing even very punk about this song, but it is still one of the highlights. So, too, is “Simona La Ramona,” with its wonderfully, warm resonant bass, which starts as a solo and threads its way through the whole Motown-into-King-Khan melody. It’s very early ’60s, very classic rock and soul, but also fresh and full of life.

All this, however, is possibly overthinking things. Shake My Head is a total blast, a drunken bacchanal, a triumph in sticky floor garage rock, that, at the same time, pushes the boundaries. What else could you want?

By Jennifer Kelly

Other Reviews of Spider Bags

A Celebration Of Hunger

Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Cruel World

Read More

View all articles by Jennifer Kelly

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