Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 Reunion Albums You Might Have Missed: Shoes, Cranberries, Soundgarden

No discussion of 1970s and '80s power pop would be complete without mentioning Shoes. Over the course of 20 years, the Zion, Illinois band put out several critically acclaimed studio albums before going relatively quiet after 1994's Propellor. In the interim, bands such as Gin Blossoms and Fountains of Wayne picked up the Shoes mantle.

Last year, original members/co-lead vocalists Jeff Murphy (guitar), John Murphy (bass), Gary Klebe (guitar) as well as John Richardson (drums), kept Shoes' power pop spirit alive with the winsome reunion effort Ignition.

Self recorded in usual DIY style and released on their own longtime label Black Vinyl, the songs are rife with trademark group harmonies - simultaneously sounding both timeless and modern.

There's no filler among the 15 tracks here. Standouts include sublime gem "Wrong Idea," the mild rocker "Heaven Help Me," chugging "Say It Like You Mean It," total earworm "Diminishing Returns" and the '70s Rolling Stones guitar crunch (complete with handclaps and humorous lyrics) of "Hot Mess." 

Shoes will be appearing at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas in March.

Back in December of '09, I reviewed The Cranberries' comeback tour at Club Nokia in LA. As a longtime fan, I was excited about the possibility of new music from the Limerick, Ireland rock band. 
That became a reality last February with the Cooking Vinyl Records release of Roses, their first new album in a decade. 

Re-teaming with old producer Stephen Street (who handled the quintuple platinum '93 debut Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?), the four piece often revisit that first CD's mix of lush and melancholy sounds. The jangly and upbeat single "Tomorrow" stands among the best Cranberries material.

Other strong songs here include the sway-worthy opener "Conduct," "Raining in My Heart" (featuring guitarist Noel Hogan's psychedelic swirls and accordion from Barenaked Ladies' Kevin Hearn) and "Show Me" (with orchestration from the noted Duke Quartet). All are download recommendations.  

Unfortunately, Roses was met with deaf ears here in America and they didn't even perform in SoCal, a longtime stronghold. Hopefully, they will return this year.

One of the most trumpeted reunions in 2012 was Soundgarden, who tested the waters by touring and putting out a compilation (Telephantasm) and live set (Live on I-5) before the new King Animal.

The Seattle band’s first studio album in over 15 years came out this past November through Seven Four Entertainment/Republic Records and debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. It was co-produced by the musicians and longtime collaborator Adam Kasper. 

Singer/guitarist Chris Cornell's gutteral scream and Kim Thayil's needling guitar make the politically-minded "Non-State Actor" one of the standouts, along with the wholly appropriate lyrics of first single “Been Away Too Long,”  which topped the Mainstream Rock radio chart.

In addition to drums, Matt Cameron plays guitar and Moog, contributes in the songwriting department and pairs up with his Pearl Jam bandmate Mike McCready on the closing "Eyelid's Mouth." Meanwhile, mandolin and horns color various tunes such as the strong "A Thousand Days Before."

Soundgarden's sold out U.S. tour, including a Feb 15-17 run at LA's Wiltern, gets underway in a couple weeks. See for more details.

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