The Shadow (USA)

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Setlist:

1. Punk Rock Agent

2. There is No Excuse

3. Dogville

4. Mosquitomen

5. It’s All Gone Wrong

6. As the Sun Sets in the West

7. Cure For Culture

8. Single Line Letter

9. Give

10. Anna Manni

11. Love Song

12. Nothing Will Last Forever

13. Your Love is Suffocating

It was truly the sort of show that I never imagined I would have the good fortune to be at. A truly sizeable crowd, including an immensely heartening number of locals. Naturally, the opening spot for a band that is not inaccurately described as “legendary” is a patent double-edged sword; a promotional boon, but the possibility of an impatient audience and insuperable expectations is massive. Luckily for everyone involved, it was a genial and quite chipper audience present at Grappa’s. The Shadow’s bassist Kika, unfortunately, couldn’t make it to Hong Kong owing to logistical difficulties – luckily, again, the very able hands and Shin-Chan bass of Yanyan Pang (Logo/Tyger Feb) ably took her place despite just the one day of practice, so no harm done.

The band’s sound is a polished, Noughties’ amalgam of a Bob Mould-ian take on pop-punk (similar buzzsaw guitar tones but played with a slight grungey lag) and heavy-handed, explicit riffage of metal (something like SSD), but without the abrasiveness implicated in either. The drumming too is an amalgam of this sort, but more in the direction of nu-metal’s (and I assume this expression is all but incoherent) more ‘trampoline-y’, bass-drum focussed style. This style is, undeniably, physically demanding, but not one that’s much to my liking (3 decades of aesthetic distance away from most jazz influences is off-putting). But, it’s a style that suits the vocals well, which are in the excellent tradition of women like Ann Wilson, but with a huskier voice, which the suits the songs composed with sustained melodic phrases quite well. Conversely, the guitars don’t always fit within this scheme; but that’s when they work best. They deserve the benefit of doubt because the equipment wasn’t conducive to the sound they like, tailored to contrasting singer Raquel’s range. Still, it was by no means bad; the searing overtone that the guitars had probably made them fit in a bit more with the Damned. When the approach didn’t work it became the kind of catchy but generic pop-rock song that one hears on the radio. When it did work, all of the stuff I mentioned earlier made the guitars sound a bit like Greg Ginn with Greg Hetson (in the Redd Kross days) with all that off-kilter feeling that this combination would imply.

The vocal flourish that opened Punk Rock Agent made the show hit the ground running; while the chorus’ lyrics are somewhat trivial, it’s bloody catchy. Dogville (Alexis de Tocqueville?) had many trappings (or the lack thereof) of a Minor Threat song, as did Mosquitomen (though the one false start made it clear just how dangerously they were teetering towards sounding like nu-metal). Quite a few of the songs were made interesting by slightly changing time signatures (quite strongly correlated with when the guitars became more metal), of which As the Sun… was a particular standout (also, it sounded like a dissonant and extended take on the riff from the New York Dolls’ song Jet Boy (like the Captain’s/Damned’s Jet Boy Jet Girl, hey!), so well done there). The songs I had problems with were mostly the ones in which the vocals had a disproportionate role, like Give and Cure For Culture (and Punk Rock Agent to an extent). Nothing Will… sounded a bit lost between its urges to be pop or semi-lo-fi punk. But, they made the wise decision of ending with their most obviously punk and fast-paced song, with a whiplash-like riff; a great note to leave everyone on in anticipation of The Damned…

– Shashwati Kala

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