Music

Thee Shams: Sign the Line

Charlotte Robinson

Thee Shams have expanded their sound to include traces of psychedelia, Southern rock, the British invasion, Led Zeppelin, and '70s AM radio.


Thee Shams

Sign the Line

Label: Shake It
US Release Date: 2005-09-06
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Once upon a time, before legal issues forced them to alter their name, Thee Shams were known as The Shams. The name change was serendipitous, since the band that made the new Sign the Line is a completely different animal from the one that released Take Off in 2001. The Shams were a four-piece garage-rock band that threw in a touch of the blues, and were led by Zachary Gabbard, whose powerful voice garnered comparisons to legends like Van Morrison and Mick Jagger. Thee Shams are a five-piece group that features harpsichord and keyboards alongside the usual guitar-bass-drums lineup. Most importantly, in this version of the band, Gabbard shares songwriting, vocal, and guitar duties with his brother Andrew. The Gabbard brothers led the band on last year's Please Yourself (unheard by me), accompanied by the rhythm section of Chad Hardwick and Keith Fox from the original lineup. On the new outing, Hardwick is gone (drummer Fox has left since it was recorded), and Max Bender (bass/violin/harp) and Joey Sebaali (keyboards/harpsichord/percussion) have been added to flesh out the sound.

The resulting sound is something far from the minimalist, swampy garage-stomp of the old band. With the addition of new musicians and instruments, Thee Shams have expanded their sound to include traces of psychedelia, Southern rock, the British invasion, Led Zeppelin, and '70s AM radio. This isn't apparent from the opener, "Not Gonna Make It"; other than the more confident musicianship, the song still smacks of a sweaty bar circa 1963. Once it ends and the piano intro to "Something Happening" starts, though, the old comparisons (to Muddy Waters, early Rolling Stones, Van Morrison -- whatever) fly out the window. With its rollicking roadhouse vibe, "Something Happening" is much more akin to the songs on Exile on Main Street than anything that came out of the '60s. There are more than two sides to Thee Shams, though, and the mood shifts frequently on Sign the Line. There are swamp rockers like "Not Gonna Make It" and "No Trust Fund Blues" alongside the Brit-sounding harmonies on the mildly psychedelic "Everflowing Tune". The carnivalesque "I Want You Back" sits alongside the country-rock ballad "Hallelujah".

There are definitely upsides to having two Gabbards instead of one; for starters, the brothers can harmonize. Andrew's cleaner voice is more versatile than his brother's, allowing the more varied musical approach, and his contribution to the songwriting likely plays a large part in the new directions the band has followed. One downside is that Andrew is nowhere near as charismatic a singer as Zachary, and he now sings a large portion of the material. Another is that the kaleidoscopic approach makes for a somewhat inconsistent listen. Thee Shams are reaching a new level of creativity, but they are sacrificing their sound, not to mention a lot of the rawness and character that initially made them appealing. It seems like they are exploring a few different directions at the moment, and it will be interesting to see which one they choose to follow.

5
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Music

Roots Rocker Webb Wilder Shares a "Night Without Love" (premiere + interview)

Veteran roots rocker Webb Wilder turns back the hands of time on an old favorite of his with "Night Without Love".

Film

The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.

Music

July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.

Music

With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.

Film

Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.

Music

MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.

Books

Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.

Film

Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.

Music

John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."

Books

'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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