Shannon & the Clams
Paddy’s Birthday 7” EP
“Blood On My Hands” b/w “Hot Hands” 7”
“Makes Me Sick” b/w “Idiot Savant” 7”
Shannon & the Clams: “The Special Powers of Blossom Culp.” Richard Peck. One of the best stories ever. Here’s the gist. Blossom’s new in town, loathed by her classmates, Letty in particular, because she is unkempt and outspoken. Also, she’s illiterate and takes to creating fantastic stories when asked to read before the class (one involves her dead Siamese twin, another her mother’s ability to track murder suspects using her “second sight”). Letty does her best to make life unpleasant for Blossom but learns too late that the real power in the story lies in Blossom’s ability to decode people. In the end, Blossom plots her revenge and destroys (psychologically) Letty’s birthday party. The a-side would make for the perfect soundtrack for that party—I ruined your birthday/I feel so bad. The apology is so long and so dramatic that the focus is clearly on the perpetrator not the victim, the Blossom, not the Letty; you’ve got the cake and the presents but you won’t mess with me again. That’s great material for a pop song and Shannon and the Clams really commit to it. They stick to a waltz the whole time. I kept waiting for the change to cut time, for the band to pause, the drummer to click off four and then everyone to come back in at the polka tempo. There’s no such relief in sight, folks, that would only let the party resume and the goal here wasn’t to snare a moment or a minute but to detonate the whole shindig. Pretty brilliant. The b-side blazes for thirty seconds then downshifts and dims the lights, packing Shangri-Las like tragedy into a tune that’s like 60s Brill Building pop but rendered through a lens that twists and distorts. This is how I first imagined Lou Reed’s pre-Velvet Underground singles would sound.
The Splinters: The a-side is heavy on the floor tom stomp, topped with simple and really catchy guitar lines, laid back, almost monotone vocals…sounds like Mo Tucker to me (again with the VU?) and it’s a wonderful thing. Kind of dark in tone but sunny at the same time. Both songs are gems. I used to think Mo was the only one who could pull this off but I stand corrected. The rare record that will appeal to my pre-school kids as much as Brooklyn hipsters.
The Sandwitches: A lot different than their last single (“Back to the Sea”) but perhaps better. “Make Me Sick” has a field recording vocal—notes bending and twisting like a long, lost Appalachian melody—supported by a well-placed combination of acoustic guitar and piano, all of which stands in perfect contrast to the venomous lyrics. “Idiot Savant” is neither like the a-side nor the previous single. For most of the song two notes ping pong on the acoustic guitar carrying a gentle melody with a sweet sentiment: Idiot savant, you’re the one for me. Unique, unusual, and quite good.
-- Mike Faloon