Remember about six years ago, someone kept programming a punk-rock cover of “Tainted Love” on your neighborhood pub’s CD jukebox? That was by Shades Apart, and in fact the cover-of-a-cover (Soft Cell’s tune was originally by Marc Bolan’s wife Gloria Jones) was pretty great. But how could any band fail with such a no-brainer tune in their pocket? Shades Apart were looking like one-hit wonders with nowhere to run.
Well, the press kit makes a big deal about their punk roots, but Shades Apart are just workhorse melodic rock and roll to my ears, and their second album Sonic Boom is as far removed from punk as, I dunno, the Georgia Satellites. The album features chunky chords, gruff vocals, even a few tender guitar solos, but not much to write home about. They do provide recycled hooks and clichés in abundance, and the fact that they come from New Jersey will definitely invite Bon Jovi comparisons.
The band gears much of this material toward a live audience. Tunes like “Got Shot Down” and “SuperZero” attempt to generate fist-pumping choruses (in fact, the latter has simulated crowd effects), and you can just picture lead singer/guitarist Mark V. using all his rock’n'roll professionalism to try mustering a churning mosh pit. The lyrics, by drummer Ed Brown, are all un-punk in their careful avoidance of specific politics or ideology. Sentiments like “early Monday morning” and “drive all night” are all the excitement you can distill from the words, unfortunately. Even a song called “Rebel Teenagers from Mars” is astonishingly unfunny. There are a couple memorable songs in here—I vote for “Radioactivated” and “Conspiracy”—but they’re not so memorable you’ll be showing them off to friends any time soon. (Especially since “radioactivated” is a pretty dumb word to invent.)
Overall, it’s an album by a band that obviously has a lot of fun playing live. In which case you should probably go see ‘em if they roll into your town. The album itself, however, is too tame and anonymous. And the cover art is horrendous. My advice is that they should speed things up a lot more (like their mentors the Descendants), and offer braver, or at least funnier, words to sing along with.
// Notes from the Road
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