Week 69

cover

Shumai

Tastes Like Summer Album

Total Gaylord Records

 

If jangling indie pop rock is your bag then this is for you. If toned down, lo-fi sub americana recorded in bedrooms, basements and garages hits your spot, then open up your ears and sway your way around the living room to the sounds of Boston's finest guitar slinging C-86-ers to be named after a sushi dish. Shumai are a four piece culled from members of Prickly, Love Child, The Cignal and Dukakis and they set the indie pop standard in a city more often cited as the home of the Pixies, the Red Sox and Cheers.

This full length album is a collation of two previously available E.P's (Combo with Five Delights, and Leisure Champs), yet it reads surprisingly well as an album in its own right. The female fronted quartet have a distinct if not unique sound. It's Tallulah Gosh, it's Heavenly, it's The Wedding Present, it's The Field Mice. It's all those bands and more, indeed, 'The Lonely Passion of Joey Heatherton' lifts lines directly from the mightily eloquent, yet sadly limited back catalogue of country rock hero Gram Parsons in more ways than one.

The whole feel of this record is basic, simple yet irresistible melodies and hooks lie over fuzzy, scuzzy layers of guitars. It seems to suggest innocence, a naivety that was once espoused by a few in Bristol, and not many more elsewhere. The tracks are simply crafted into delicate, flowing, upbeat songs of love and life and then given the most ridiculous titles. Titles that barely illustrate much of a connection with the fundamental theme of the songs, but surely it's not the title that's important, it's the song that counts; and these songs do just that.

Opening the record is 'Are You Jeff Corwin Experienced?', a guitar and keyboard lead ode to the American television king of animal interaction, think Johnny Morris, think Terry Nutkins, but make him an all American hunk, with slick hair and great teeth you're getting there. The female vocals draw obvious comparisons to any of Amelia Fletchers incarnations, and that is in itself no bad thing, as everything the girl touches turns into pop.

The aforementioned 'Lonely Passion...' follows with it's country pop feel and then into 'Prescription Sleep', opening with overdriven guitar punches and keyboard walls, a male versus female vocal duet that cuts swathes through the noise, it's distinctly under produced, purposely and as a consequence fits the set perfectly. 'Tijuana Picnic' is next up, bringing us to the halfway mark far too soon. This is pure Sarah, if I close my eyes I'm opening my post in 1986 to find a paper sleeve wrapped around a treasured seven inch piece of vinyl. It's the sound of a band making its first, frightened steps into the world of serious writing and recording, it's almost as though they know deep down that what they are doing is great, but whether through a lack of self confidence, or as an underlying trait there is an element of nervousness about the song. They need not worry, it comes out perfectly.

Whilst Gram had his '$1000 Wedding', Shumai have their '$18 Rubber Pants' - yeah, that's pants, not plants. With enough 'La, La, La's' to fill a French novel the track careers headlong through another guitar and keyboard battle, well, not so much battle, and not even a fist fight, more of an altercation, a slight disagreement, a mild tussle. 'Birds and Bees' is upbeat musically, with the vocals buried and tinged with slight distortion. The lyrics are structured in a story-telling way, reminiscent of R.E.M.'s 'Belong'; it's not so much of a sing-along as a conversation.

'Dog Lipstick' and 'Soulmate of the Ice Cream Girl' close the album, and keep the tempo up. There is a sunshine feel to the former which suggests a more west-coasty, beach boys feel than that of cold Bostonian winters. Maybe it's escapism, maybe it's emulation, maybe it's just a great pop record.

The whole feel of the record is that of a D.I.Y. pop adventure, of sunny days, of optimism and hope. Not so much of confidence, but definitely of self belief.

I'd say get it, it'll make the long winter nights seem like summer, it'll make them much more bearable.

 

Johnny Mac

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