Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Shakes - The Rise And Fall Of Modern Living - 2006

The trouble with living in a cool neighborhood is that nothing stays cool for long in America these days, and once you and a handful of your friends find reasonably priced apartments in a part of town that's livable but off the beaten track, it's only a matter of time until the real estate values go up, developers start renting lofts to clueless trust-find hipsters, and the corner bar turns into a bistro selling nouvelle cuisine that sets you back a week's salary. Peter Gilabert and Janet Housden of the Shakes have been watching this sort of thing happen in their corner of Los Angeles' Silverlake district, and the rise and fall of their community provides the back story for the group's third album, The Rise and Fall of Modern Living. In the early innings of their story, the Shakes have to contend with obnoxious homeless people ("The Greeter of Sanborn Avenue") and unpleasant landlords ("Mr. Fix-It"), but there are also plenty of attractive neighbors ("Right Down the Hall"), and prime trash picking after deadbeat neighbors move out ("Modern Living"). Then "Gentrification Blues" set in, and soon the neighborhood is overrun with yuppies and their screaming children ("Little Babies") and joints where beer is eight bucks a bottle ("Ballad of a Carpet Bagger"), forcing the folks who lived there in the first place have to pick up and move elsewhere. Thankfully, the Shakes are able to communicate the joy of the salad days as clearly as their annoyance with the slide downhill, and they serve up some sharp pop-influenced garage rock (or garage-influenced pop/rock) that boasts plenty of ringing guitars, chunky hooks, and imaginative textures (the cool acoustic feel of "Broken Beds," the neo-mariachi "Yo Quiero Dinero," and the grand orchestral finale). The Rise and Fall of Modern Living is fun and engaging stuff even when it's talking seriously, and it confirms the Shakes deserve a higher profile along with comfortable, rent-controlled living quarters. -AMG

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