Swami John Reis and the Blind Shake have teamed up to make “Modern Surf Classics” that pays tribute to classic surf rock albums by offering up modern takes in the form of 13 original tracks.
I don’t think I had ever really thought about it before, but placing the Blind Shake into the realm of surf-rock actually makes a whole lot of sense. Their brand of hyper-energetic, stomping, stuttering garage-rock isn’t that far removed. Their liberal use of reverb and scordatura places them, at the very least, in the same timbral category.
“Brown Room” starts off acoustically, but it isn’t long before the reverbed lead line comes in, moving through a few short riffs that cruise along at a relaxed pace. If you are familiar with Real Estate’s first album you’ll appreciate the sound that they’re going for here. The video complements the track nicely with that haze of nostalgia on the surface of every frame, dulled colors and slight blur accenting footage of surfers taking to the waves.
It would be remiss of me to not mention the great Picardy Third that closes out the track. It’s a nice touch.
“Modern Surf Classics” is set for release on January 27, 2015. The album can be pre-ordered right now, and will be made available on CD/LP/MP3 and FLAC formats.
Usually when walking into a venue for a show I expect to drink away the opening acts. Openers are something that, 95% of the time, must be endured rather than enjoyed. At The Empty Bottle in Chicago this past July 15 all of that changed for me. I was there to see Thee Oh Sees after a full and final day of the Pitchfork Music Festival, and sure they were fantastic (as previously mentioned) but I can’t put into words how astonishing The Blind Shake’s performance was.
After a brief soundcheck the trio left the stage and returned dressed identically head to toe in black, accentuating their already strikingly similar appearance: all around my height (5′ 10″) with shaved heads, one of the guitarists wears glasses with a band strapped tightly around his head, and for good reason as the show would soon prove.
They immediately obliterated the stage with the drummer pounding violently and unforgivingly on his set while the two guitarists stood firmly, leaning towards their mics as if at any moment they would jump directly into the crowd to throttle each and every one of us. The guitars were being battered just as hard as the drums with every hammered strum threatening to rip the strings right out while the two of them barked into their mics on opposite ends of the stage in unison, and when they weren’t actively engaged in singing were flailing around the stage, instruments swinging freely as if they were at once trying to escape them or wield them as weapons.
With each song that passed more of the audience was won over. I kept turning to my friends in disbelief. My brother was standing beside me and we couldn’t figure out how to describe what we were seeing and hearing. The only phrase I could manage being “This is frightening. It’s fucking amazing.” And that it was: both frightening and amazing.
Listening to the album right now on Spotify is only capturing some of the experience (again, much like Thee Oh Sees). The songs on their latest full length, “Seriousness”, are straight forward, foot-stomping jangling and aggressive garage punk. Standout tracks are definitely the surf-rockin’ opener “Hurracan” and “Out of Work”. There isn’t a single track on the album that is over 3 minutes long, “On Me” comes closest at 2:58. Each song is an unrelenting, visceral, rhythmic jolt aided by open guitar tunings that allow for extra jangle. Everything they have recorded can be heard on their Bandcamp page, so you should head over there and check it out.
Right now those of you in the midwest are lucky as The Blind Shake have a few shows coming up in August in Chicago and Minneapolis according to their website, with a full fall tour schedule coming soon. And according to their Bandcamp page they have a show in Florida and Georgia in September. They are also playing the Halifax Pop Explosion in October, you lucky Haligonians!
Their albums are available for actual physical purchase (highly suggested) from Learning Curve records. Their latest, “Seriousness” is available on vinyl.