by Cristian Andersson
First off, Smart Shoppers is playing with The Woggles on Friday, October 13th, at Green Bay UFO Records & Gift Shop in Green Bay. Go to that show. And then, realize that this review of their latest record, Leftovers From Tomorrow, will not be able to capture what this garage rock / punk / new wave / dork wave band is all about. Track by track, Joey Shops, Norway Shopko, Aaron Smart and Josh Thrift takes us on a tour of punk through the ages in a way that feels waking down the cereal aisle. “Party Girl,” “Slacks,” “Sugar Freaks,” “Store” “Spitty”... are a tour of these sounds from late seventies onward. Colorful boxes with different tastes tied together in that they are specifically constructed to get you jacked up–seventeen tracks, each almost entirely under two minutes long. While the tracks have a feeling of comical irreverence (even going Zappa-ish on “Sex Organisms,”) the playing is tight and has all the right angles, like a punk band that shows up to the gig wearing argyle. Wait...... Joey Shops switches up his vocal styles throughout the album adding to the this history lesson of the genre, although he avoids a side-trip to hardcore and sticks to a delivery that doesn’t thrash his voice. Great musicianship, sharp lyrics, silly sounds on this well-produced record. Leftovers From Tomorrow, their second full-length, you should pick up when you see them at GBUFO on October 13th. Otherwise, search for The Smart Shoppers on Bandcamp / stream it, if you must.
Music can be timeless, it can be generational; it can speak to an event, it can be just for that moment. And then there is the holiday variety. When October rolls around, and I’m in the mood for a seasonal record, I usually drop the needle on Satan’s Pilgrims Creature Feature (RIP Dave Pilgrim) or the Halloween Album with Sound Effects by Thee Cormans. The score to Vampyros Lesbos [Sexadelic Dance Party] by Manfred Hübler & Siegfried Schwab also falls into the mix. Camp. Eerie guitars and organs. Call backs to early rock of the 50’s and 60’s. Will Keizer, in 2020, put out Angel in a Haunted House–his entry into the cannon of spook–in seemingly a moment to experiment from his more rock-based sound. The second track, “Floating in the Dark,” starts off with an abstract dance of high pitched notes, soon to be grounded by a progression of a catchy guitar riff interplaying with long sustained notes before moving into wails and then settling into chord work reminiscent of James Mankey’s playing with Concrete Blonde. This is a mostly instrumental album, although Keizer sings on “Did a Bad Thing” (in which he laments about doing something deeply regretful–we aren’t privy to what actually occurred–and asking for forgiveness? guidance? from Mama), “Don’t Go in the Woods” in which he takes on the lyrics of Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs “Li’l Red Riding Hood,” as well as duetting with Meaghan Owens on “Waltzing With the Dead.” Owens’ singing is spot-on with a creepy, at times double-tracked, voice that has the innocence of a waif that turns into the demon later on in the movie. And, that is the overall sense I get from Keizer’s release–the idea of a soundtrack. Sometimes it is more literal like “Zombie Gun” that has a strong connection back to Mancini, or when he falls into patterns that allow the action of life to be carried along on like “Ghost Story” or “Angel Plays the Blues.” Keizer calls this “Midwest Gothic.” Let’s see if he ventures there again. Find Angel In A Haunted House on Will Keizer’s Bandcamp or streaming.