Shame (Phil Royer, ‘Paperback Jukebox’, June 1993)

8 07 2008

This is Stone Gossard with a lot less Pearl Jam in him. Groovy, laid-back and not so nasty, Shame was written and recorded in less than three weeks by the Sperm guitarist and some other friends. It offers a more tragically thespian view of the cowboy biker ballad. Brad vocalist Shawn Smith delivers in a sweaty falsetto reminiscent of Terence D’ Arby next to Stone’s hypnotic and subtle guitar riffing. The bass percolates along, funky and secure, keeping the near lethargic tempos from dozing off. None of the songs jump out and demand your attention but most eventually will earn it. The beautiful “Buttercup,” which opens the album, is so slow and sure of itself it behaves as if each beat is signaling the song’s end. There’s only one rocker, one mid-tempo single, and the rest is mellow. The album begins its exit with “Rockstar,” a bass-heavy number that could walk proudly alongside one of Brian Eno’s dinosaur swamp soundtracks, then transforms itself into the I’m glad I’m home beauty of “We,” a simple three chord piano vamp that could have faded out politely instead of returning to an obnoxious vocoder experiment that forces the listener to leap out of her seat and hit the stop button.

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