The Shys: Astoria

Under their new moniker, the Shys struggle to bring their live energy to the recording studio, resulting in an up-and-down, but not dissatisfying, straight rock record.

The Shys


Label: Sire
US Release Date: 2006-07-11
UK Release Date: Available as import

To say that garage rock has been revived in the past few years can be somewhat misleading, because it never really died. Rock music has had a home in garages since its inception, and it promises to stay there as long as suburban youth need a meeting place for their pickup bands. Of course, those who speak of garage rock are referring to a style of music, and not the place where that music is made. The 21st century has seen countless rock bands emerge with their own appropriations of the garage rock styles of the '60s and '70s, and with its latest release Astoria, the Californian band now called the Shys (formerly known as the Gun Shys) is seeking to join the long list of successful members of this movement.

In order to be successful in the nü-garage rock scene, a band must employ distinctive musical or marketing angles. The White Stripes brought a minimalist aesthetic, a low-fi approach, and a passion for the blues to garage rock, and, in so doing, secured musical fame. The Strokes, in addition to creating an auspicious debut album, used their model-quality looks to land them covers on major music magazines like Spin and draw new fans. The Shys also have an angle on the garage rock scene, but it will probably not be enough to gain them the audience size of the aforementioned bands. Rolling Stone deemed them the "Best Alternative to Jet" at the South by Southwest music festival. This label is a fairly accurate description of the Shys's musical niche; unfortunately, it shouldn't be enough to earn the band critical acclaim or commercial success.

The Shys play a straightforward brand of energetic rock and roll. All the predictable elements of rock music are there –- catchy riffs, anthemic choruses, and cocky swagger. In fact, one of Astoria's problems is that it's just too predictable. A dynamically reserved verse inevitably leads to a high-energy chorus. A bridge or brief interlude almost always follows the second chorus. On their new record, the Shys are treading musical ground that thousands of bands before them have tread, and they don't bring many new ideas to the table.

Astoria is not without its highlights, however. The title track is a fun romp that sounds something like Hot Hot Heat covering a collaboration between the Clash and Elvis Costello's Attractions. The album's first single, "Call in the Cavalry", has all the trappings of commercial success, including a pounding bass drum, handclaps, and a rousing chorus. Another song, "Having It Large", rocks with Stonesy vigor and is downright exciting. Throughout the record, songs contain hints of classic artists ranging from the Who to the Stooges. The most successful tracks also display a sense of reckless abandon and musical inspiration reminiscent of these bands. Unfortunately, most of the songs do not.

Lead singer Kyle Krone has admitted that the Shys find more satisfaction on the stage than in the studio. Astoria is an album that supports this statement. It stands no chance of being considered a truly great recording. It is, however, full of tunes that would be great if heard in the midst of a crowd of screaming fans. A record, at least in part, must be judged on the strength of its songs. A concert, on the other hand, is often most successful when it possesses raw energy and charisma. If nothing else, Astoria does demonstrate that the Shys possess these two traits. Listeners don't need to go rushing to the store to buy Astoria, but they should check out the show if the Shys ever come to town.





Learning to Take a Picture: An Interview With Inara George

Inara George is unafraid to explore life's more difficult and tender moments. Discussion of her latest music, The Youth of Angst, leads to stories of working with Van Dyke Parks and getting David Lee Roth's musical approval.


GOD's 'God IV - Revelation' Is a Towering Feat of Theologically-Tinged Prog Metal (album stream)

GOD's God IV - Revelation is beautiful and brutal in equal measure. It's a masterful series of compositions. Hear it in full today before tomorrow's release.


Country Westerns Bask in an Unparalleled Sound and Energy on Their Debut

Country Westerns are intent on rejecting assumptions about a band from Nashville while basking in an unparalleled sound and energy.

Featured: Top of Home Page

Rediscovering Japanese Director Tomu Uchida

A world-class filmmaker of diverse styles, we take a look at Tomu Uchida's very different Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji and The Mad Fox.


The Charlatans' 'Between 10th and 11th' Gets a Deluxe Edition

Not even a "deluxe" version of Between 10th and 11th from the Charlatans can quite set the record straight about the maligned-but-brilliant 1992 sophomore album.


'High Cotton' Is Culturally Astute and Progressive

Kristie Robin Johnson's collection of essays in High Cotton dismantle linear thinking with shrewdness and empathy.


Lianne La Havas Is Reborn After a Long Layoff

British soul artist Lianne La Havas rediscovers herself on her self-titled new album. It's a mesmerizing mix of spirituality and sensuality.


PC Nackt Deconstructs the Classics with 'Plunderphonia'

PC Nackt kicks off a unique series of recordings dedicated to creating new music by "plundering" unexpected historical sources such as classical piano pieces or chamber orchestra music.


Counterbalance 24: The Doors - 'The Doors'

Before you slip into unconsciousness, Counterbalance has put together a few thoughts on the Doors' 1967 debut album. It's number 24 on the Big List.

Reading Pandemics

Parable Pandemics: Octavia E. Butler and Racialized Labor

Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, informed by a deep understanding of the intersectionality of dying ecologies, disease, and structural racism, exposes the ways capitalism's insatiable hunger for profit eclipses humanitarian responses to pandemics.


'Tiger King' and the Post-Truth Culture War

Tiger King -- released during and dominating the streaming-in-lockdown era -- exemplifies in real-time the feedback loop between entertainment and ideology.


Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.