Shannon & The Clams' Showcase Passion & Sincerity In 'Gone By The Dawn'
In the video game series Fallout, a most curious atmosphere is created. Set in a post-apocalyptic America, monstrosities and robots abound in a land ravaged by the aftereffects of nuclear warfare; what makes the world of Fallout unique, however, is how the culture of the mid-20th Century clings onto the wasteland in fashion, behaviour, and music. Tune into the radio and the gorgeous harmonies of the Inkspots will crackle out, soundtracking your struggle to survive in modern America.
In Fallout’s San Francisco Bay Area, Shannon and the Clams would make a perfect fit. Blending the doo wop, R&B, and rock’n’roll of the mid-20th Century with 80s garage-punk ethos, the music on 'Gone by the Dawn' is an honest continuation of that spirit in a modern setting.
'Gone by the Dawn' is a breakup album, hearts on sleeves. Singers Shannon Shaw and Cody Blanchard were either in the midst of or recovering from serious breakups during the album’s recording, and as lead vocal duty flits between the two, so does that perspective shift. Along with the mostly earnest and original lyricism, this dynamic makes 'Gone by the Dawn' stand out from the vast sea of breakup albums it might otherwise get lost in.
The most notable change in the Clams’ sound since their last record, 'Dreams of the Rat House', is the production. Where before the Clams’ were committed to a raw, off-the-top kind of lo-fi recording, here they have applied some glossy polish to their rambunctiousness, and the results are slightly mixed. What the band have gained in the space for some delightfully weird keyboard and guitar twitches to flourish, they have somewhat lost in the energy and rough charm of their earlier work.
That isn’t to say that 'Gone by the Dawn' is charmless, though – quite the opposite – what makes the prospect of a band playing ‘60s pop in 2015 anything but perplexing is the sincerity of the band, and the Clams have that in bucketloads. Lyrics are crooned and yelped with an earnest passion, guitars are plucked unabashedly and halfway through the record the past 50 years sit at the back of the mind like a forgotten set of keys.
This is no bit act, it’s the music they want and need to make – and if you want a sad boogie without dusting off the 45”s, they’re the band for you.
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Words by Sam Birkett