Mention the name Shakey and some people may well think of a second-rate Elvis impersonator in double denim, others of the brow-beaten football manager who saved Leicester City from certain relegation a few years ago. Some may even think of an Ernie Wise wannabe from Stratford and the plays wot he wrote.
However, real afficianados of the arts think of the near physically perfect, suitcase kick drum-wielding Texan singer/songwriter Shakey Graves. Or Alejandro, as he’s known to his mum, and Mr Rose Garcia as he’s known to the taxman. The story of how he got the name Shakey Graves is well documented, and I’m sure we’re all grateful he stayed awake that night by the campfire, otherwise I could well be reviewing the latest offering from Droopy Weiners!
As it is, Can’t Wake Up is the latest offering from Mr Garcia, and rather splendid it is too! This is a more polished, full sounding affair than his early output and he claims to be exploring his wider influences, telling us to “sell our suspenders” So, if you’re expecting to hear an acoustic guitar/banjo/suitcase kick drum combo, you may be a tad disappointed. However, if you like eccentric psychedelia, lush, Beach Boys like vocal harmonies, complicated guitar lines, sometimes frantic drumming and quirky lyrics, then you will love this.
Within seconds, the opening track “Back Seat Driver” has me whisked away to a more gentle time, driving down the West coast road from Los Angeles to San Francisco in an AC Cobra, roof off, wind blowing through my flowing locks (ha) and some gorgeous hippie chick grinning from ear to ear in the passenger seat. This late 60’s, laid back vibe continues on the second track, “Counting Sheep” and Jefferson Airplane are suddenly on the 8 track. We are given a brief respite from the hippiedom on the third track, which starts with a kind of cod 20’s style swing feel (slightly reminiscent of Honey Pie, (from The White Album) but soon gets back into the hippy vibe (man).
Later on, on “My Neighbour” things get slightly darker, even sinister. It’s as if Charles Manson had just popped his head around the studio door and asked if he could do some backing vocals…
Things then take a slightly more modern sounding twist, drums get tighter, guitars get more distorted, the reverb gets turned down a bit and we are suddenly transported to the 90’s, my AC has been replaced with a sensible Volvo and Blur are on the cd player, The Airplane and the 8 track are just a fading memory! Mind you, I liked the 90’s almost as much as the 60’s. And tracks like “Cops And Robbers” and “Big Bad Wolf” would have fitted in with the Britpop scene quite easily. Had Shakey been around in 1995, he could well have been competing with Damon, Liam and Jarvis as pop’s coolest frontman (Jarvis won that one by a mile, in case you were wondering). On “Climb On The Cross” – a song I saw on Youtube a while back where Shakey is sitting under a tree in a park in Germany, strumming the half-written tune and sounding like his old self – it has now been given the full band treatment, and it still sounds magical.
If you have previously been put off by the starkness of his early work, or you don’t like banjos, suitcases, solo voice/guitar records etc, I would urge you to give Can’t Wake Up a listen.
Hell, no… Just buy it, it’s the best record you’ll hear this year!
You can argue with me if you like, but you’d be wrong.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.