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Shoes - Ignition

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Artist: Shoes

Album: Ignition

Label: Black Vinyl

Review date: Sep. 21, 2012

Ignition is the first album of new Shoes songs since 1995. Seventeen years is a long time to be gone. Why come back now? Not because of some upswing in market demand; the power pop that this combo plays is no more popular now than it was in 1974, when the Love Unlimited Orchestra was on the radio and they made their first record in a Zion, Ill., living room.

Despite the looming disco threat, those were simpler times. Temporarily between wars and living in a town where nuclear energy not only paid the bills but kept the beach warm, what were some Beatles-loving guys to do but write songs about longing for girls, being rejected by girls, and living without girl? Since no one else was listening, they made four records of the stuff in living rooms that were deeply loved by dozens before new wave came along and they did their best to ride it. Shoes’ music got a bit bigger, tougher and slicker, but it never lost that early wistfulness. Even when business troubles wore them down and they stopped recording, they never completely stopped, but it took one of them putting a new studio together in his basement to get the ball rolling again in 2010.

Ignition wears its anachronism on its sleeve, quite literally; the cover image looks like something out of an early Buck Rogers strip. The group’s harmonies aren’t quite as light on the breeze as they were back in the day, but Jeff Murphy, Gary Kleibe and John Murphy can still read and execute the Fab Four’s harmony blueprints. Their Beatlemania even extends to employing elements of the plastic-wrapped production style that Jeff Lynne visited upon George Harrison’s Cloud Nine and the Traveling Wilburys albums. But there is still an essential modesty, which conspires with a creeping resignation suited to songs that reflect the concerns of people in their late 50s. They’ve said some goodbyes, settled for some disappointing results, and learned to appreciate gifts, like the chance to make one more record together. The hooks take a bit longer to sink in, but if you give ‘em a chance, they’re there. Sometimes it’s a short guitar lick or a stuttering drum beat, sometimes it’s a well-put line, or maybe just the swoop of three voices in harmony, but the bits add up to a record that can insinuate itself into your brain and infiltrate your hum-to-yourself songbook. I guess these Shoes still fit.

By Bill Meyer

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