Album: Man on a Wire

Artist: Grand Shell Game

Label: self-released

Release Date: November 11, 2016


The Upshot: NC group’s six-song debut is rich in texture, awash in melody, full of literary and emotional nuance.


In 1974 a man named Philippe Petit did a tight rope act, which on the face of it isn’t particularly significant, since circus performers do it all the time, and even we ordinary folks employ the term “tight rope act” during moments of  risk. Petit, however, performed his particular act between the towers of the World Trade Center as thousands of citizens, and more than a few policemen, watched from the Manhattan Streets far below—not something that happens every day.

This daredevil move, it seems, is what inspired the Grand Shell Game’s debut album, Man on a Wire, in general, and the opening track of the same name in particular. “What if he falls?” the musicians harmonize en masse, amid a surging sea of swirling keys, crashing guitars and tumbling percussion, and as the song unfolds, notions of life’s fleeting nature are voiced (one verse concerns a soldier engaged in combat thousands of miles east of NYC) along with the idea that “to own your own soul you must step past the edge.” Heavy stuff indeed—and this is a heavy album, rich in texture, awash in melody, full of literary and emotional nuance.

The Grand Shell Game is a six-piece from Carrboro, NC. From the classic rock vibe of “Oracle,” what with its Beatlesque vocals and sinewy guitar solos, to the gently rippling “Love,” which offers a contrasting folk/pop/psych side to the band, their debut album is a remarkably fresh affair. To these ears it sounds unique within its indie rock context even as it bears familiar overtones of years gone by.

It may be a shell game these young men say they are playing, but they won’t be able to keep things hidden from view too much longer. Together for only two years, they are already causing the kind of regional stir that should carry them far and wide.

DOWNLOAD: “Oracle,” “Man on a Wire”

Leave a Reply