Thursday, August 1, 2013

Roots, pt. 2: The Shears

Much as I love The Power of Rawk being at the top of the page it's time to move on.  I have a lot on my plate to write about, such as this Will Stratton benefit album.  Though I wish that likes of Super River, pow wow! and SWade had been invited to participate you should still download it and donate as much as you ca because I don't know of a better cause.

So back to other personal stuff.  The Shears.

This section began in the Summer of 2003 when the guys over at Barfbag Records such as Alex Dinsmore underlined the fact that Hurtu needed a permanent drummer.  We agreed, but for the interim would pulled in Basking Ridge multi-talented personality Alec Signorino.  He also brought a much better name with him - the Shears.  This name is derived from Billy Shears of Sgt. Pepper fame, and somehow everybody knew that immediately.

The Quartet began work on mostly new songs largely penned by Sam Deutsch and then set off Summer Music Programs in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.  Only it was the core trio on this trip.  The first week they were matched with Tim Nelson whose musical endeavors I cannot recall, but whose brother Andy played bass for Philly hardcore group Paint It Black, best known for their contribution to a Tony Hawk video game.  With him they recorded ¡Swing Pad! named after the perpetually dark and messy dorm room that Sam and Aidan shared.  It was the party palace of the program for the next two weeks with the best video games, DVDs, and music around.  The next week, the band took it easy with old friend Jeff Ziga of Little Baby's Ice Cream fame on Smokin' in the Girls Room.

Sadly, I don't have uploaded album art for these inside joke-heavy works at the moment, but hopefully will get them up soon, along with Shabazz! the similar EP I recorded with Aidan and Jeff the year before.

¡Swing Pad!

Opening this EP is an update of The Power of Rawk's "Parallel Lines," now with geometry homework-inspired lyrics.  It's a lot better than the original thanks to the addition of vocals, though the lead guitar is still probably the best part.  The group also reveals their classic riff-based formula on this track.  That was something that concerned me as many expected more changes and typical verse-chorus structure, but they were not hip to real pun/folk.  

Then there is "Morning Glory" with it's similar structure.  It is one of the most legendary Shears songs that was probably the first new one after the completion of the Hurtu LP.  This was the first recorded version and naturally the weakest, though certainly the cleanest and the biggest production with the organ accompaniment.  What makes this song so legendary though was the next version with the infamous and controversial "my name's Alec and I'm gay..." line, sung naturally by Signorino later that summer.  Ridiculous psychedelic fantasy lyrics are matched with blaring leads and a powerful descending riff.

"Autograph" is another one that would go onto be re-recorded in tighter, more enjoyable versions later, but this one is still a winner, the first with more than a riff and certainly the best lyrics on the record.  I love this song and this is the one to hear first.

I finally get to take back the mic on closer "I Hate You," a track you could call the "ultimate Ramones song," despite the fact that it is an original.  It is simpler and even more concise than any song that great band recorded.  It doesn't even need vocals on the chorus.  All teenage punk should sound like this, but how many teenagers have such great taste?

Smokin' in the Girls Room

The loose and fun vibe on this album is emphasized with the opening with the Ziga-sung cover of "Sk8er Boi" capturing the zeigeist of Summer Music Programs in 2003.  If you want to know the truth about this hit song here it is.  The bridge is one of the great examples of Aidan's unique style of guitar playing, somewhat reminiscent of Daniel Ash and Alex Heerman.

This is followed by the hilarious and directionless political outrage of "Society" which shows the more inclusive aspect of this record by featuring a fantastic solo from Aidan and yours truly on background vocals.  It is a simple Pavement-style indie rocker that puts modern double-aged 90s worshippers to shame with all the humor of good ole S.M.  A must-hear for the line "I don't need your Medicare, old people gonna die anyway."

It keeps going with "Pretty In Pink," which has aged better than I would expect.  Like the movie version it has sax, played by Aidan, but in a totally different way.  The drums are a bit off because that's me, but it wasn't too bad and this could be Sam's best vocal performance of the summer.

The album closes with "Guitar Art," an instrumental envisioned by Ziga that captures all of the quartet's bombastic and ironic tendencies for old fashioned metal excess.  I believe that's Aidan on drums!

These two EPs allowed this era of the band be forever intact with a clean sound never possible before and after.  They excel in capturing both the pure idea of these wonderful songs and having the playful attitude and humor of Sam and the McEneaneys.  This is not outsider music like The Power of Rawk, it may be somewhat crude, but this is some of the best music I have ever heard by such young kids and after such a long connection to Summer Music Programs that says a thing or two.  It's no surprise the members went onto such great things.

DOWNLOAD The Shearssssh (2003)

Following the audition of a drummer Signorino departed the band and took the band and took the name with him.  That was the end of the Shears and the beginning of Love Athena, but you will have to wait for that...

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