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Shannon and the Clams span eras, genres on ‘Year of the Spider’

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AUGUST 24, 2021

Grade: 4.0/5.0

Since their rough greaser meets somber ‘50s boy band debut I Wanna Go Home in 2009, Oakland natives Shannon and the Clams have won over countless fans not only in the local music scene but worldwide. Artfully blending doo-wop, punk, garage rock and everything even remotely in between, the band has consistently pushed the boundaries of its creativity as well as how much it could refine its music without sacrificing the raw and spirited nature so many have fallen in love with. 

Often compared to the ‘60s girl group The Shangri-Las⁠ — if it were on large amounts of psychedelics and soundtracking the 1990 film “Cry-Baby” ⁠— the quartet doesn’t shy away from the strange, melancholy world of youthful angst and the music to match. Its sixth studio album, Year of the Spider, hones Shannon and the Clams’ eclectic mix of time periods and their corresponding genres into a cohesive but unpredictable composition, largely with production help from Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame. Everything about the album oozes sophistication, from the arrangement of the plucky guitars to the soulful yet sharp vocals.

Slow but vicious opener, “Do I Wanna Stay” is a perfectly twangy, ‘50s surf-inspired song, laced with just enough punky anger to offset the stripped-down instrumentals. Lead singer and bassist Shannon Shaw’s sultry yet impassioned voice descends into a beautiful, screeching rage as the song progresses, breaking up the somber guitar and backing vocals with ferocity. “I dream at night, I know/ That someone’s found for me,” she sings, her vocals refined but fully commanding at the same time.

“All of My Cryin’ ” immediately picks up the tempo, rocketing listeners into a new sonic atmosphere where Shaw takes on a falsetto. The song is more disco-inspired and bubbly, a contrast to some of the softer songs on the album, despite its heavy title and lyrics. “I took a bullet for trying/ Trying just to find my voice,” Shaw sings to instrumentals without a hint of sadness. However, the yearning in her voice is palpable, making for a fascinating soundscape for listeners.

Softer songs such as “I Need You Bad” and “In The Hills, In The Pines” help give depth to the troubles chronicled on Year of the Spider, mostly in atmosphere and overall sentiment, as the more energetic songs still have deeply moving lyrics. These songs, however, don’t detract from the buoyancy of the record one bit, instead giving it peaks and valleys of varying intensity. “I Need You Bad” sounds as if transported right from the Summer of Love, a simple yet catchy tune with ample moog synths. “Mary, Don’t Go” and “Flowers Will Return,” on the other hand, sound like The Mamas & the Papas but edgier.

Apart from the unique musical stylings on Year of the Spider, the way the band juxtaposes bright guitars with touching and personal lyrics is a sign of its immense growth as an artist that allows itself to dive into pain and then make an earnest effort to heal from it. Year of the Spider doesn’t just mask Shaw’s struggles — including her father’s battle with cancer and a stalker peering into her apartment — with cheerful beats. Instead, Shannon and the Clams constantly encourage listeners to find moments of happiness amid the sadness.

From the band’s ‘60s pop-inspired name to its whole aura like a page ripped straight from the golden oldies, Shannon and the Clams somehow spans decades while maintaining an effortlessly timeless quality. With a mix of rockabilly and punk, a unique combination that serves Shannon and the Clams well, Year of the Spider is delightfully introspective, allowing the band to grapple with more serious matters while still keeping some elements of comicality that have stuck with the four from the start. Shannon and the Clams are sure to trap you in their web, not just with Year of the Spider, but surely with many more releases to come.

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.
LAST UPDATED

AUGUST 24, 2021


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