Spider Bags – Shake My Head

January 01, 1970







Chapel Hill’s Spider Bags have undergone a stunning
transformation that may leave fans shaking their heads in amazement. Their
music – that this writer described a few years ago as “Southern rock turned on
its ear” – has shed that tired cocoon and flown off like a
butterfly-out-of-Hell for this go ‘round. They’ve shifted into punk rock mode,
with some songs that bring seminal punkers like Toy Dolls, Eater, Lurkers and
Cock Sparrer to mind, as well as offering up garage, psych and cow-punkish
contributions. Down deep though, there’s still a lot of the old Spider Bags
just below the surface on other songs. Shake
My Head
is an astounding, ass-pounding set of songs that go beyond the pale
of anything they’ve previously done.


Heading off to Memphis to record this, their third
full-length album in six years, ‘Deranged’ Dan McGee and crew, which includes
two new members in the quartet whom seem to have injected fresh vitality, shat
this monster out in just a few days. In what is described as a non-stop party
with various friends like Jack Oblivian and The Limes’ Shawn Cripps jumping in
to lend vocals or guitar licks here and there, the end result is a document of
this rock ‘n’ roll bacchanal. (Worth noting: the group’s official bio crows,
“Bursting the seams with hooks, gang vocals and vertiginous guitar riffs, the
band delivers the record that we always knew they had in them.” So, don’t just
take my word for it – I didn’t expect that THIS would be that album waiting to
get out.)


The first song, “Keys To the City” is a bastard mix
of The Toy Dolls strained though The Vandals’ “I Want To Be A Cowboy.” It’s
your first clue there’s been a major sea change in their music. “Simona La
Ramona” seemed to have a little of Joe Strummer/Clash with a small helping of
spaghetti western, a la Theremin,
added in. Next up is the cow-punkish “Friday Night,” a pounding guitar smasher
that would surely have an audience feverishly jumping up and down at a show.
There’s more colorful guitar jousting on “Shape I Was In,” which finally slows
mid-song to just some delicate guitar tinkling before cranking it back up for
the finale.


They slip in the James Brown cover of “I’ll Go
Crazy,” which Dan totally makes his own as a drunken beer joint testimony and
declaration of love, the slurred “you know I love you baby” type of assertion
from someone feeling no pain, and declare that they’ll go crazy if you leave
them. The supporters cry out ‘you gotta live for yourself, yourself and nobody


“Standing On A Curb” is another blatant,
in-your-face guitar attack smashup. There’s sincerity and rainbow promises in
“Quetzalcoatl Love Song,” a not-so-delicate love song amongst all the greasy
rock ‘n’ roll. Then, it doesn’t get much greasier than “Shawn Cripps Boogie,”
garage grease that is. This instrumental was done at an in-store show at
Memphis’s legendary Goner Record Store and sounds like a missing cut from a
Nuggets compilation. The tempo finally decelerates in “Daymare,’ an achingly
slow ballad with a background of distorto-echo effects that gives a virtual
daymarish quality to it. The album ends with a plaintive ditty, “The Moon Is A
Schoolgirl” which ebbs, flows and then oozes into a psychedelic meltdown by the
end, complete with mercurial wah-wahs. 


The systemic shift the band has taken on this
project is nothing short of going to visit your old couch-potato, video-gaming
buddy that you haven’t seen in a couple of years to find instead, a buff and
trim guy ready for the Navy Seals. A real man-into-wolf transformation. The
Spider Bags are one of the best ‘bar bands’ in the biz, and if your musical
budget only allows for the purchase of a handful of albums this year, this one should
be on your list.


DOWNLOAD: “Shape I Was In,” “Shawn
Cripps Boogie,” “Standing On A Curb.” 



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