Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rocket Fever Review: AMERICA IS OUR OFFICE | Charlie Don't Shake

Charlie Don't Shake splits time between the garage and the bedroom on its new EP.

The album kicks off with a couple songs familiar to anyone who's spent time on CDS' MySpace page in the past few months, "Shiloh" and "The Ballad of Pat Brown." These two rockers are a continuation of what followers of the Lansing/Chicago band have come to expect: growly vox from Craig Schmidt, mnemonically riffy guitar from Jeremy Whitwam, and tight, sharp drumming from Andy LeRoy. Both songs are good for drinking and singing to. Except that half the time I replace "White Sox" with "Tigers" in "Pat Brown," and I won't apologize for this.

"Early Times and Office Work" is a charming ditty to life in the cubicle culture, with boxcar harp work from the Blanks' Fancy Dan Nordheim. "But if everyone was happy, who would write the drinking songs?" Schmidty asks.

On "Skinny Fool," CDS starts to turn up the sex quotient with a loopy, smoky journey aided by an undeniable guitar riff, atmospheric keyboard work, and attitudinous dual vocals from Jeremy and Craig.

The band takes a noodley turn toward the psychedelic on "The Halo" before ending with a couple songs perfect for background music while making eyes at that girl at the bar. "Dance Party" takes that girl to task for wasting time at the wrong dance clubs and tries to persuade her to take her moves to a cooler part of town. "We got to find a way to get together, baby/Did you ever stop to think of all the times/A crafty or move or two would make your day/And yet you're all about the race to stand in line," Craig sings. It's kind of the same point made at the essential Hot Chicks with Douchebags: Baby, cut the crap and come hang out with a real cool dude.

After "Dance Party" persuades the girl to come back to your apartment and then stick around for a few years, "What Do You Think About Me?" tries to figure out what went wrong. "Baby, you don't look at me like you used to/Just one look would take all your pain away," Whitwam and Schmidt sing. The song, led by Jeremy's Curtis Mayfield-esque vocals, ends with one more crunchy guitar riff while asking the titular question.

These last two tracks are moody, rhythm-&-blues-influenced numbers. "What Do You Think About Me?" could be characterized as a slow jam. This points up the one problem with having good friends populate a band you like. If Charlie Don't Shake were made up of strangers, I'd have no problem putting these songs on a mix for the next time a girl stops by the apartment (recognizing this is all academic; it's, ah, been a while). But it's just plain weird to set the mood with music sung by a guy with whom you've gotten staggering drunk, driven across many states, and debated the finer points of AL Central baseball. I guess I'll just have to leave that to someone else.


Solari said...

Well-thought and -crafted review. I add a few points:
1. In my ears, "What Do You Think About Me?" is CDS's take on the Stones' "Fool To Cry" - only without being ham-handed or schlocky like FTC.
2. "Dance Party" freaks me out. In a good way. Perhaps the best line of the disc: "We got to find a way to get together, baby/and watch the darkness blow a gentle kiss to light." Slick.
3. "Skinny Fool" edges out the previously mentioned "Dance Party," as my fave, if only because I was very surprised how well Craig and Jeremy's voices mesh, especially when harmonizing.
4. Craig has really grown into his own vocal style. I say that because in the band's previous two releases, I could picture Schmidt singing for much of them. On this, especially as evidenced in the last three tracks on the disc, I tend to get lost in his wordsmithery and delivery.

I'd probably be able to write more if this disc doesn't hold a prominent spot in my six-disc changer in the car. Lyrically inventive, musically soulful, and fully engaging. High regards.

Craig said...

You have a six-disc changer in your car?

The City Desk said...

You have a six-disc changer in your car?

Come on, it's Solari. Of course he does.

Chances are, it's 4 discs Zeppelin, 2 Third Wish.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I do. Two are Zeppelin, two are mix CDs, one is CDS and the other is a Detroit band South Normal. No Third Wish, however, anywhere to be found (other than in the 80-disc CD booklet in my passenger seat).