[30 March 2010]
Like the hurricane victim too indignant to leave his home when the storm hits, Good Shoes remain steadfast bearers of CBGB-style post-punk even as backs seem to be turning against it. In fact, things don’t bode well for the band if the easiest comparison one can offer reads something like this: Good Shoes are the Strokes transported from New York to a dead-end South London suburb without the benefit of the latter’s elite boarding school education or delusions of grandeur. In other words, Good Shoes sound very 2003, period. Like the Strokes, the band does sprightly fuzzed-up songs around the three-minute mark with lyrically jaded content. “Then She Walks By” on sophomore No Hope No Future, a name that lamely does little to conceal the group’s debt to the Pistols, has frontman Rhys Jones’ vocals aerated through a layer of distorting scuzz normally reserved for Julian Casablancas. And like Casablancas, Good Shoes don’t suffer relationships gladly. Jones slaps a cold fish in our faces with “Times Change” by painting a picture of how the good times shared between couples are doomed to turn a sepia-toned colour of alienation. There’s even a song on No Hope No Future called “Under Control”, which, of course, has its namesake on the Stroke’s seminal Room On Fire.
So the way I’m going – yoking No Hope No Future to the defeating notion that Good Shoes make the new Strokes – is bound to do the band no favours. So I’ll stop. Good Shoes, anyway, has one-upped the Strokes on the punk metre by recording No Hope No Future in bedrooms and other domestic settings, paring back the polish of their debut Think Before You Speak.
If we consider the album just in terms of song-writing and charisma, then, like its debut, it’s a solid effort that’s bound to chime well with fans that came to Good Shoes for some rollicking suburban ennui in the first place. Good Shoes have kept their promise of writing exhilarating, angst-ridden songs with angular melodies, shards of guitar and high-kicking drums. This promise is carried through on everything from the head-bopping, muscular and jangling opener “The Way My Heart Beats” to the jagged and thrumming “I Know”.
“I Know” is the group at their height of punk card-carrying. Jones rails against the “moronic nature of humans in a group” and preaches that our age is “the dark age” even as he counsels against succumbing to dogma, including atheism. Little new is said here, but its back-to-basics charm and Jones’ visceral delivery is undeniable.
It’s not always raw nihilism, though. Musically we have an admirable post-punk grab-bag of wonky basslines and disco riffs (“Times Change”), insistent dance-punk (“Under Control”) and whirling guitar acrobatics (“Our Loving Mother in a Pink Diamond”). And as on “Times Change”, the band’s frustrations usually strike close to home more than they offer empty nihilism. “Do You Remember”, for instance, harks back to the innocent, if dull, days before the band enjoyed a respectable amount of success.
Whereas their stab at the ballad on their debut was a mixed result, “City by the Sea” rounds off No Hope No Future with a welcome dose of gentility and even hope. Most importantly, it shows Good Shoes haven’t ditched their very human hearts and minds in favour of blanket cynicism, which can sound gimmicky.
If there is an off moment on No Hope No Future than it is “Do You Remember”. Forlorn and lumbering, the song boasts lyrics that are as awkward as its positioning on the album; at number two, it comes just after “The Way My Heart Beats” gets you po-going.
No Hope No Future is for those who rummage through their collections for some Ramones or Buzzcocks when the call for repose from whatever happens to be de rigueur at the moment comes. With no delusions of grandeur attached to a debilitating hype machine, Good Shoes seem happy remaining cranky young men in their niche, keeping their less-than-stadium-sized but fervent crowd on their toes. They’ve proved it before, having lain low since 2008 with the odd support gig for hype machine indie bands like the Maccabees thrown in. Even though they lament on “Do You Remember” that “things were better back then/when we expected nothing/did things for love and not money”, I doubt Good Shoes want or feel the kind of pressure the Strokes felt after their sophomore release.