A reincarnation of straight-ahead, unself-conscious, pre-Spinal Tap rock bands, Brooklyn’s The Shake makes a polished debut with their 8-song collection, Kick It. Everything feels like a throwback, from the modest number of tracks (unlike most CDs which average 13-14) to the stylistic influences: AC/DC-style propulsion, fuzzed-up late-Beatles guitar, a Herman’s Hermits-y melodic bounce, and more.
The Shake ably incorporates all these styles into their songs, which end up sounding too derivative at times, but have the saving grace of solid hooks and melodies. “8 O’Clock” and “Let Me Take You Far Away” are both bright, catchy tunes, recalling the British Invasion but charming in their own right. “Stop Fighting,” the bonus track, has the same snappy tunefulness. And the opener, “Princes and Kings,” has a great classic-rock opening riff, before it drowns in trite lyrics and predictable rhymes.
The band does better when it avoids serious subjects. “Dyin’ Ain’t the End of the World” is heavy-handed and monotonous, while songs about love and skipping stones are much more successful. But even the dullest songs have interesting musical detours – great riffs or tossed off filler melodies that suggest the band has songwriting chops to spare.
Singer/guitarist Jon Merkin has a powerful voice that puts these songs across. The band needs to find their own voice, but an apprenticeship to earlier styles is an honorable beginning.