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Shack - Here's Tom With The Weather


Review: Jack Foley

I MUST confess that Shack were pretty new to me, when first I took the CD out of the envelope and looked at the cover.

But they have been around for some time, it seems. Formerly known as The Pale Fountains, back in the Eighties, they then renamed themselves Shack and narrowly missed out on the album of the year award from several magazines with their 1999 album, HMS Fable.

That was four years ago. And things have been pretty quiet since then.

Yet if the publicity is to be believed, then the oddly-titled new album, Here's Tom With The Weather, merely serves to confirm Liverpool-born brothers, Michal and John Head, as two of the most promising singer/songwriters of their generation.

The name of the album actually refers to the Bill Hicks' sketch, where he talks about the kind of positive news stories he'd like to see; (imitating a news anchor), and this positivity is echoed throughout the record.

For here are 12 songs which effortlessly make you feel good, without really trying.

The Head brothers cite The Beatles, Love, Nick Drake and The Beach Boys as some of their influences, while also sounding like an infinitely more breezy version of Turin Brakes (courtesy of their acoustic grounding), and the Oasis of tracks such as Talk Tonight.

And it is a rich and diverse listen, occasionally a little too sweet for its own good, and a little bland, but generally sounding like the perfect accompaniment to this hottest of Summer's.

The guitars are a particularly strong factor in helping the album to succeed, while the Nick Drake strings, Latin percussions and Mexicana interjections do much to enliven it at certain points.

In fact, the second half of the album is actually stronger than the chilled out first; although things get off to a beautiful start with the lush wish fulfillment of tracks such as As Long As I've Got You and The Girl With The Long Brown Hair, with dreamy lyrics such as 'she plays old movies through the night', which conjure many a wonderful image.

Elsewhere, the psychedelic folk of tracks such as On The Terrace and Soldier Man recall the hazy, carefree days of the Summer of Love, while Meant To Be is where the brothers sound most like the classic B-sides of Noel-voiced Oasis.

Where it differs, however, is in the trip down old Mexico way it takes midway through, lending the track a far more epic, sweeping feel than the gentle simplicity of the Gallagher brothers' style of songwriting. It almost catches you off-guard, but you can't help but nod your head in fond appreciation.

The more plugged in sound of On The Streets Tonight, which is populated by colourful characters and some great electric guitar interludes, is a really great record, and a single in the making, which effortlessly recalls the heyday of Brit-pop, while the layered, almost moody sound of Chinatown, which captures Shack at their grittiest, is a really terrific listen.

And all the while, Head's vocals are perfectly-realised, delivering several soothing lullabies that never threaten to dwarf the subtlety of the guitars.

The album only really falters during the watered down moments of tracks such as Camden Town and Miles Apart, which don't really go anywhere, but this shouldn't detract from an otherwise great, if acquired, listen.

In the final analysis, the weather forecast on this one is all good.

 

Track listing:
1. As Long As I've Got You
2. Soldier Man
3. Byrds Turn To Stone
4. The Girl With The Long Brown Hair
5. On The Terrace
6. Miles Apart
7. Meant To Be
8. Carousel
9. On The Streets Tonight
10. Chinatown
11. Camden Road
12. Happy Everafter

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