I’ve usually been able to enjoy the music of The Shazam
without paying much attention to the lyrics. Sometimes cryptic, sometimes
nonsensical, they pale in comparison to the music. The band always leveraged
their love of guitar-oriented powerpop like The Move and The Who to create
albums full of huge sounding, hook-laden rock songs. With. Big. Dumb. Riffs. Not that
there’s anything wrong with that.
The album sounds great, and frankly Hans Rotenberry has never sung better. The first track (“So
Awesome”) is reminiscent of earlier anthems like “Let’s Away” and blasts off
with a shuddering bottom heavy sound. The more balanced “Don’t Look Down” and
“A Little Better” swing from quiet to loud and back again, both remarkably
channeling Joe Walsh as if he were creating mash-ups with Big Star and Cheap
Trick, respectively. And with those mice-like harmonies, fans of The Darkness
might think their favorite band regrouped to cut “Disco at the Fairgrounds”.
Less successful are the lyrically bereft “NFU” (“Not Fucked
Up”) and “Dreamcrusher Machine”, where those trademark big dumb riffs don’t
have the hooks to fall back upon.
There’s some arena-style playing (framed by arena rock producer Mack)
but not much else. And despite the claims of “NFU”, by the time he gets to the last
three tracks, I think he was. “Hey Mom I Got the Bomb” can slide by only if you
imagine The Flaming Lips playing surf-rock, but “Latherman Shaves the World” is
as ridiculous as it sounds. And I hope “Time for Pie” is a crass double
entendre, because it’s just…well, a big
dumb riff, this time ala Led Zeppelin.
I’m glad to see The Shazam back in the game, and with songs
like “Let It Fly” they prove that they’re still capable of writing a great
hook, inserting it within a complex arrangement and letting big guitars, fluid
bass and spirited drumming carry the ball. But Meteor doesn’t sustain it; an EP of highlights might have been a
Standout Tracks: “Let It Fly,” ‘Don’t Look Down,” “A Little Better”. BILL HOLMES