Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Album Review: "Shake My Head" by Spider Bags

Shake My Head by Spider Bags was released on
Odessa Records on August 7, 2012
Spider Bags have gradually been building momentum for the past few years with 7" after 7", but with their latest release the band has truly become a staple for North Carolina's music scene.  On their first full length out on Odessa Records, Shake My Head, Spider Bags have crafted a fantastic concoction of garage rock with their southern roots heavily shining through.  While the album clocks in at just over half an hour, these ten tracks still pack some hellacious punches with teeth rattling hooks and raucous melodies.  Dan McGee blasts through powerhouse rock anthems with ease and honesty, but the real joy of the album isn't within any one facet of the composition, but instead it's how it all comes together so beautifully.

Recorded in Memphis, TN with some of the area's finest garage rockers popping in and out of the sessions to lend hands where they were needed, whether that be gang vocals or guitar riffs, the guest presence can certainly be felt on the record.  Shake My Head is an open-ended and expansive garage rock album that perfectly tows the line between a tight rock n' roll record and a casual punk project, leaving the result as one raucous but focused album.

The album kicks off with "Keys to the City" a track that clocks in just under two minutes but serves an excellent purpose of grasping the listeners attention with its boisterous punk rhythms, jumping strong out of the gates with authority and direction for the album.  "Been living in the same town my whole life/Cheating on my girlfriend with my ex-wife", McGee paints a vivid image with his simple lyrics on Shake My Head, while some of the themes may not be relateable to all of the listeners, he can capture the essence of these feelings and situations wonderfully.  "Keys to the City" is a powerful opener that seamlessly transitions into the smooth bass line that opens up "Simona La Ramona", a song that glides through at a much slower pace than "Keys to the City", but still retains all of Spider Bags' authenticity.  While there's a much slower tempo one still can't help but rhythmically bob their head to the southern-tinged vocals "Oh Simona La Ramona/I'm like a dog without an owner".  McGee pulls off quirky and cheesy vocals with ease, mostly because while these lines may not be the most creative lyrically, they serve as the perfect foreground to emotions and themes conveyed throughout Shake My Head.

Another stunning example of this comes from the refrain within the lead-off single, "Friday Night", "Baby it's tough falling out of love/Baby it's tough, tough, tough". This chorus comes as a plea that one doesn't really want to accept, yet within the same song we hear the lament of "Maybe I'll drink, maybe I'll fight/Maybe I'm tired of Friday Night". "Friday Night" is a passive acceptance of a broken heart, and that really encompasses much of the record.  Lines from Shake My Head can border self-deprecating and sorrowful to the self-affirming but dead-panned "You gotta live for yourself, yourself and nobody else" in the cover of James Brown's "I'll Go Crazy".  It's a dichotomy that continually rears it's head on the album, as earlier in the song McGee starts out with the lines of "If you leave me I'll go crazy", but follows it up with this cry for self appreciation that he seems to finally take to heart in the later parts of the album.

Yes, you read that right, James Brown cover.  This is just one example of the sheer versatility that Spider Bags' contain, they're a straight rock n' roll bar band that can pull off a bare-bones cover of James Brown and do it justice.  This Chapel Hill by way of New Jersey band has added what feels like a truly sincere southern rock vibe to the tried and true garage punk sound.  Verses may contain a face melting guitar riff or a rhythmic punk breakdown, the structure leaves the listener guessing and pleasantly surprised the majority of the time.  Take for example, "Shawn Cripps Boogie", a three minute instrumental break that contains a bit of studio chatter leading into an wonderfully layered piece.  Guitar lines build upon guitar lines, xylophones creep their way into the mix, new percussive elements continually rear their heads, and quite frankly Spider Bag's makes this instrumental break feel just as crucial and thematically vital as the rest of the album.

While the staying power of the songs begins to wear off with the final two tracks, these closing tracks still serve as the perfect conclusion for this album filled with beefy hooks and powerful choruses.  While the final two tracks lack the catchy refrains and melodies, "Day Mare" still displays a common theme within a different light.  McGee bellows out that, "I don't know if I was ever alive" in a much deeper and darker tone than the rest of the album, and that goes hand in hand with the rest of the album.  These tracks break from the tradition of the rest of the album, but in turn fit wonderfully within the big picture.  Shake My Head is Spider Bags' most ambitious release to date and it's by far the most comprehensive picture of this band.  From the crunchy opening riffs to the slow brooding closers, Shake My Head is a brief but fantastic tale of unnecessary lament and woe and the ways in which we cope with it.  Falling out of love is hard, but it's much easier with the raucous garage ramblings of Spider Bags as your soundtrack.

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