Shoes - Topic

Present Tense [Bonus Tracks] Play

The first of Shoes' three Elektra albums, Present Tense is almost a happy accident in ways -- not that the band hadn't already shown its particular approach beautifully with earlier efforts, but at a time when major labels were trying to figure out what punk and new wave could provide, Shoes just found a perfect balance. Recorded in England and co-produced by the band, Present Tense didn't end up sounding like a Cheap Trick clone, had a winsome, cool air thanks to the brilliant harmonies that distinguished the group from the Knack, and in the end traded off power and wistfulness in equal measure. The harmonies in particular are just lovely -- as distinct and band-defining as those of the Beach Boys -- on songs like "Too Late," "Three Times," and "Your Very Eyes." Gary Klebe and Jeff Murphy have enough crunch and sting in their guitars to add some downright swagger to things -- check out the glammish kick of "Hangin' Around With You" and the combination soar and snarl of "Now and Then" -- while keeping an eye on economy throughout. The fragile acoustic lead on "Every Girl" provides an especially striking dimension to the song. The punch of Skip Meyer's drums adds further heft, John Murphy's bass also can cut through the mix -- the introduction to "In My Arms Again" and "I Don't Miss You" in particular showcases both nicely. Much of the sound of the album finds a sound that could easily be called timeless -- it's inspired by the past but sets a template that so many groups would follow in the future. No one stands out as the obvious highlight, which could be said to show an interchangeable sameness among them, but just as easily means that each has its own particular point in an approach the quartet had down cold. ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi

Tongue Twister Play

After having recorded one of the finest albums of 1977 (Black Vinyl Shoes) on a four-track in the guitar player's living room, it's not surprising that when Shoes were signed to a major label, they would want to explore how the other half lived with the bigger and more bombastic production of Present Tense. Tongue Twister, however, found Shoes in more audibly sympathetic territory; though the album's crisp, well-detailed mix is significantly more hi-fi than the group's debut, producer Richard Dashut's approach is pleasingly lean and concise, with John Murphy and Jeff Murphy's harmonies and the efficiently hooky guitar lines of Gary Klebe and Jeff Murphy clear in the forefront at all times. In many ways, Tongue Twisters suggests what Black Vinyl Shoes might have sounded like with more time and money but a similar set of aesthetic choices; it also boasts a set of great pop songs (played with a few notches more energy than on their debut), including the spunky "Your Imagination," the plaintive yet lustful "Karen," the surprisingly hard-rocking "She Satisfies," and "Girls of Today," which amusingly covers territory the Who staked out on "Pictures of Lily." Oh, and no matter what it might sound like, there are no keyboards on Tongue Twisters, a brave creative choice for a pop band with an eye on the charts in 1981. If Tongue Twisters didn't break nearly as much ground as Shoes' debut, it's still a superb bit of guitar-driven pop, and one of the band's most purely enjoyable efforts. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Present Tense/Tongue Twister Play

Some things were destined to be together: Lennon and McCartney, peanut butter and jelly, hamburgers and French fries, and country & western are a few examples. The fabulous Present Tense/Tongue Twister CD is another. The entirety of Shoes' first two Elektra albums (1979's Present Tense and 1981's Tongue Twister) on one disc makes for one of the most highly recommended power pop CDs of all time! Forget what you have heard about Big Star (they were way too sloppy), Raspberries (too inconsistent), and Jellyfish (too self-indulgent); these two albums are the real deal. With harmonies that embrace and cradle your heavy heart plus some of the most delicious melodies since the golden days of Badfinger, Shoes will win over anyone searching for bands that know how to write "the song." Bassist John Murphy and guitarists Jeff Murphy and Gary Klebe all write and sing their own tunes on these albums, all remaining individually distinctive while creating a unique group sound that sets them apart from other bands of their era. On Present Tense, the band's chunky electric and gentle acoustic guitars and floating harmonies stand out, sounding like the backing track to 10cc's "I'm Not in Love" played by "Junior's Farm"-era Wings. Every song deserves mention, but their signature song, "Tomorrow Night," and the haunting "Three Times" distill the album's essence into small, but enticing, samples. Tongue Twister found the band turning up the chunky guitars, virtually abandoning the acoustics, but remaining as wonderful as ever. Another stunning classic, featuring "Karen," "She Satisfies," and the beautiful "Found a Girl," this album is Present Tense's tougher younger brother. With both albums on one disc, there is absolutely no reason that any pop music fan should be without this CD ~ Steve "Spaz" Schnee, Rovi

Boomerang/Shoes on Ice Play

Back on their own territory and producing their own records, this is a similar album to Tongue Twister. [A live EP, Shoes on Ice, which came with the initial pressing of the album, has now been added to the CD version.] ~ Jim Worbois, Rovi

35 Years: The Definitive Shoes Collection 1977-2012 Play

On the heels of their acclaimed 2012 reunion record Ignition, the Shoes released the generous retrospective 35 Years: The Definitive Shoes Collection 1977-2012. Beginning with their 1977 debut, Black Vinyl Shoes -- wildly accepted as one of the classic power pop LPs -- and sampling relatively equally their three major-label albums from the early '80s and the indie trilogy that followed in the '80s and '90s, this 21-track collection covers far more territory than their previous comp, 1987's Shoes' Best, just by sampling from the 25 years of records that followed. That may not amount to more than a handful of LPs -- after a pair of albums in the mid-'90s, the group took an extended hiatus until Ignition -- but adding cuts from Propeller, Fret Buzz, and Ignition helps round out the Shoes narrative, presenting them as both power pop pioneers and keepers of the flame, offering hooks and harmonies for 35 years and running. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
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