By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
The Blind Shake are a trio, two-thirds composed of Blaha DNA. Siblings Jim and Mike Blaha, the band's two axmen, have done away with the conventional use of a bass guitar, since neither of them wanted to play it (how this elegant solution might have applied to childhood bunk-bed apportionment, we'll never know). Instead, Mike, the younger, plays baritone guitar—although "plays" doesn't quite capture the mechanism correctly. It might be better to say, if you habla Blaha, that he deploys the noise that comes from his instrument. The low end of Blind Shake songs seems a little like it comes from a pursuer, one who, once sent after you, can't easily be called off. (The internets allege that folk babe Ani DiFranco also often uses a baritone guitar, which causes me to wonder about the fraction of households in 1998 that welcomed both Little Plastic Castle and the Jesus Lizard's Blue into their stereos.)
With Jim Blaha on guitar and Dave Roper on drums, the band unleashes an aggressive style of rock commonly traced to the noise acts who once made their home at Amphetamine Reptile Records. Most recently, they collaborated with Minneapolis underground legend Michael Yonkers for the Carbohydrates Hydrocarbons album. Now comes their own second release, Carmel, which times in at (a carbon-efficient?) 25 minutes for its 12 tracks.
The product of their economy is a disc of junkyard-dog-mean riffs; terse, echoing vocals; and rust-punching percussion. If I were to host an impromptu tire fire at my house, Carmel would be the first thing out of my stereo speakers.
Both of the band's brothers sing, delivering challenges—"Hey policeman/Watchya doing way out here?" (from "Peach Lines")—with a sneer and a drawl. They're not much interested in an answer, and the response would be lost in the industrial grind of the rhythm section anyway.
If the drums and baritone guitar are relentless and pounding, the higher end is marked by a nervous, piercing squall. Say the military created a swarm of hummingbird robots to watch over neighborhoods and thwart the joyous congregation of tire-fire lovers—their nervous little wings might make a sound like Jim Blaha's guitar.
But in the distorted surf phrases and wipeout percussion of "Fiberglass," a cinematic playfulness peeks through all the fierceness. There are handclaps, after all—though the sound of flesh hitting flesh here recalls getting smacked around by an older sibling's friends more than it references the glee of childhood.
Miles away from the cool outcasts' playground of the Blind Shake lies the verdant pop hills and disco-breezed terrain of the Wild Things. (You know you've really reached the border when you hear the soft, merry tones of a xylophone chiming.) The local quartet's first EP, Everytime I See Your Face, will be greeted with happy familiarity by all ears that tingle to the sounds of Walker Kong, where drummer Emily Cahill also keeps the beat.
With enough reflected light and healthy bounce to outfit a Pantene ad, the four tracks skip along with a carefree blitheness, casually promising love and delivering, at the very least, a groove that would make even a Breck girl tangle her tresses. Patrick Eversweet's mellow tenor and Karl Raschke's thin reverberating warble layer the lyrics on "Last Time" as Kim Ha's melodic lines on keyboard move in Middle Eastern undulations. On "The Beast" the band suggests gently (rather than boasts), "And you feel all these wild things inside you/Your skin feels hot/You can't concentrate." These Wild Things are never menacing, but that doesn't mean they can't make you break a sweat.
THE BLIND SHAKE play a CD-release show on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9, at the TURF CLUB; 651.647.0486
THE BLIND SHAKE
Learning Curve Records
Every Time I See Your Face