Godspeed The Shazam
Not Lame Recordings, 1999
REVIEW BY: George Agnos
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/08/2000
I can't remember the last time I heard a CD that really made my jaw drop in excitement. This is what happened when I first heard the latest CD from the Nashville rock band The Shazam. Oh, I have heard plenty of excellent, well-crafted CD's lately, but not one that really got my heart racing like this one. Their debut CD was a wonderful slice of hard-edged power pop sounding like a cross between Cheap Trick and The Replacements. Now this second CD, Godspeed The Shazam, ups the ante by showing both musical and songwriting growth by leaps and bounds.
On the musical side, it's as if the band listened a lot to late 60's Beach Boys and early 80's XTC and Rain Parade before recording their new CD, as they have developed a quirky, somewhat psychedelic sound. They have somehow done this without losing the edge that made the debut CD so good. For example, "RU Receiving" sounds like Cheap Trick doing a cover of the early XTC song "Are You Receiving Me?" managing to capture the essence of two very different bands beautifully with no musical whiplash. No small feat.
Their Brian Wilson influence is very evident on songs like "Calling Sydney" bringing an unlikely rock instrument like the tympani drums into the fold. And "Sparkleroom" has overt references to Wilson and his Beach Boys both sonically and in the chorus with the lyric "Come on surfer girl." Of course, not being a '60s band, they inject these songs with a bit of cynicism.
The Shazam also displays a very silly side to their music. "Chipper Cherry Daylily" is a very weird sendup on psychedelic music recalling David Bowie at his strangest. "City Smasher" is a harder edged curiousity displaying an almost Monty Python-like sense of humour. These two songs may be a little over the top, but they do show a lot of imagination. Producer Brad Jones does a great job making every song on the CD sound unique.
However, Godspeed The Shazam isn't just about great arrangements. The Shazam's lead singer and songwriter Hans Rottenberry has written one of the best songs I've heard in a while in "Super Tuesday," using the political primaries as a metaphor for a sagging relationship. He also manages to drop the cynicism for the earnest but clever love song "Some Other Time." The midtempo ballad "The Stranded Stars" also shows Rottenberry's tender side as well.
The Shazam finish the CD with two very different type of songs: a moody piece called "Better World" which shows they listen to Big Star as well, and the Replacements-like rocker "Gonna Miss Yer Train," which is there to remind the listeners that they haven't forgotten how to do a straight rock song.
In short, Godspeed The Shazam is an impressive tour de force that has a little something for every pop fan. Very rarely have I come across a CD with such creativity all the way through. It is really a shame that they have gone unnoticed by the public.