The tradition of British rock bands taking American roots music as an influence, adding their own sound and feel, and sending it back across the pond is hardly a new one – however, each successive generation of artists does this slightly differently and applies it to a new style of music, and the 22-20s are no exception. Rather than the hard rock stylings of the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin, the 22-20s combine a unique mix of indie/alternative rock, folk, blues, and country to produce their own unique brand of rock music.
The 22-20s, who took their name from the Skip James song “22-20 Blues”, were formed by Martin Trimble (guitars/vocals) and Glen Bartup (bass) in 2002. After a series of singles and EP’s, the band released their self-titled debut album in 2004, and then spent the next year-and-a-half touring and supporting such acts as Oasis, the Black Crowes, and Kings of Leon before splitting up in early 2006. However, this proved to be just a temporary hiatus, and the band reformed in 2008 for the Heavenly Festival. Along with Trimble and Bartup, guitarist Dan Hare and drummer James Irving fill out the band’s new lineup, and together they began touring England in 2009 using the pseudonym “Bitter Pills” while working on their next album. With no formal announcement, the single “Latest Heartbreak” was released in digital format at the end of 2009, and later became a free single of the week via Apple’s iTunes service. Following that, the band released a series of live-in-the-studio versions of some of the tracks from Shake/Shiver/Moan, further developing the underground buzz surrounding the release. The album made its debut in Japan on May 19, and hit the shelves of US record stores on June 22.
Shake/Shiver/Moan is a bit of a roller coaster, both in terms of the music as well as the subject matter of the songs. The opening track “Heart on a String” immediately grabs hold of the listener, with an upbeat rhythm that belies the emotions in the lyrics; the next track, “Bitter Pills”, slows things down quite a bit and just floats along for the next few minutes until the tempo goes back into overdrive on “Talk to Me”. This up-and-down feel continues throughout the entire album, both from track to track as well as occasionally within the songs themselves, such as the title track which begins slow but gradually builds to a charging, rockabilly-inspired climax. However, at no point does the album ever feel disjointed; instead the band’s energy flows through from track to track with occasional peaks but no real valleys to speak of.
One of the biggest differences between Shake/Shiver/Moan and the 22-20s’ debut album is the addition of more backing vocals to Trimble’s lead, especially apparent on some of the album’s more laid-back tracks such as “Ocean”, “4th Floor”, and “Let It Go”. This addition, combined with better production and growth both musically and lyrically, is an evolutionary step in the band’s sound. While the raw, bluesy sound of their earlier work is still apparent, the band has matured quite a bit in the six years since their last release and Shake/Shiver/Moan shows that despite their relatively young age the 22-20s are a band who are able to move beyond their original niche without forgetting where they came from.
While hardly groundbreaking, Shake/Shiver/Moan is a solid album and should appeal to fans of multiple genres. At just under 40 minutes, this album has a very consistent flow from song-to-song and is very easy to listen to front-to-back. It shows a lot of promise for what the band may have to offer in the future. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another six years for their next album.
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// Notes from the Road
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