First Chance This Century
4 Out Of 5 Stars
Eighteen full years since their last album, "Propeller," (there was also Jeff Murphy's solo "Cantilever," the live "Fret Buzz" and a few archival reissues), the true pride of Zion Illinois return with "Ignition." The Shoes haven't aged at all since the 70's it seems, with the sugar coated hooks, candy coated harmonies and buzz coated guitars all remaining intact since the late 70's. That is not to say Shoes have not matured, but if you though their brand of Power Pop had gone extinct, "Ignition" will reignite that passion for all things dreamy buzzed.
First things first, though. "Ignition" is almost maddeningly uneven. I get the feeling this might have been better as a 10 song album, as many of the songs miss the immediacy of those classic early albums. Jeff and John Murphy and Gary Klebe still can harmonize like nobody's business and that often overcomes for the weaker of the songs. Besides, when your vision of pop includes both The Beatles (almost any given track here) and The Stones (the whiplike snarl of "Hot Mess"), it's enough to give a power pop geezer like me the frickin' vapors. You also can't help but get giddy from the wonderfully constructed "Out Of Round," recalling some of the brilliant ballads from the genius trilogy of "Present Tense," "Tongue Twister" and "Boomerang."
Okay, I am hyperventilating a bit. But as a one-time card carrying member of Shoes' fan club and a follower since "Black Vinyl Shoes" days, I'd pretty much guessed that these guys had called it a day. Perseverance and talent will out in the case of "Ignition." I don't know how far past the band's long suffering core of true believers will get this, but anyone who still slaves over their old copies of Pezband, 20/20, or other basic 4 member combos that looked towards "Rubber Soul" or "Revolver" as their lodestones should pick up "Ignition."
Choice cuts also include "Diminishing Returns," the melancholy "Only We Remain," the kick-off "Head Vs Heart" and "Say It Like You Mean It."ALSO: New best of!