I never thought I’d say this, but I’d never noticed how great a track the Beatles’ “Revolution #9” from The White Album really is. And who do I have to thank for this weird-as-hell moment of clarity? Why, The Shazam of course. Thanks to them and their cover of good ol’ Number Nine on their latest disc Rev 9, I have no more reasons to bitch about the original version. Apparently these gents from Nash Vegas thought it would be really cool to not only cover the “song”, but also turn it into more of a “song” itself by singing some of the infamous bits of the track. Why, they even managed to throw in McCartney’s “Can You Take Me Back” in there as well for all you kids who have been craving Beatles sound-alike bands.
Yes, I know everyone and their brother is falling over themselves about The Shazam. Sorry, but I just can’t. Here we are with yet another band wearing its Beatles influences on its sleeves and little else. Again I ask, “What’s the point?” Why not take the obvious talents you have and try to form them into something original that might very well reclaim a chunk of rock’s nobility rather than just create something that sounds similar to something else we all love and in turn make us just want to hear the originals instead? Rev 9 reminds me a lot of Swag’s Catch-All, another over-rated and bloated piece of Beatles tribute that holds nothing under its instant-payoff surface. Sure, it’s kind of cool the first time you hear it, but even during that virgin tour you kind of get the feeling that there should be more. At least I did.
At any rate, The Shazam provides another excuse for music critics to name-drop the Beatles, the Who, the Byrds, and Big Star again. It’d truly be nice if a lot of these power popsters could just focus on some other groups for a change, because none of these guys ever get it 100% right. There’s a lot of bands and artists out there who sound like Big Star and Alex Chilton, but so what? Gimme something more than just your best take on Radio City. Hell yes, I’m picky. After getting to hear numerous bands do this same old song and dance that sways between Chilton and Lennon, it gets a bit tiresome. So on Rev 9 we’re treated to the Chilton-esque “Month O’ Moons”. It makes me want to listen to Sister Lovers again. Sure, The Shazam get all sloppy just like Alex on a crazy night, but that’s just the problem. Rather than just let the sound be influenced by Chilton, The Shazam decides to try to impersonate Alex down to his wooly singing. Blah.
There are parts to some of these songs that I like, but not an entire song itself. I like the strings and arrangement on “Take Me”, but the singing and lyrics I could do without, along with the predictable backwards percussion. “Wood And Silver” is probably the best song here, even if it does strain to do another McCartney on the listener’s ears. And dig the Ringo-ish drum fills. See what I mean? Everything here is just borrowed from somewhere better. So why get excited about it all? “Okay?” has some good thick-sounding guitar notes, but they’re overshadowed by the worn out melodies that the rest of the song pushes through.
I don’t know. Maybe I expect too much from some of these bands. But I can’t help it when I do get to hear the great power pop group every now and then that throws down some incredibly new and fresh sounds. On Rev 9 we’re only treated to someone else’s Beatles leftovers reheated in a microwave oven. It’s bands like this and New Jersey’s The Echo Orbiter that rely too much on cleverness and not enough on their own talent. Skillful and smirking this music may be, it offers nothing to truly sink your teeth into. Like a hollow chocolate rabbit. It looks good, and even tastes all right, but after you’ve had it, you’re still looking for something to satisfy you. The Shazam has a way to go before they truly are as exciting as some critics might lead you to believe. Don’t let the press go to your heads yet, boys.
// Notes from the Road
"BBC Music hosted a mini-touring showcase of up-and-coming British artists.READ the article