Tuesday, August 27, 2019


What the heck is it with Hamilton and the enduring legacy of that ultimate cult-cool band Simply Saucer? That hybrid alt-rock/psych/punk combo was formed in the '70's and rediscovered decades later, leading to an ongoing reformation and status as a global influence. Now, an original co-founding member is seeing the same thing happen to his 90's project, The Shangs, who are back and beautiful with this, the group's first in over 20 years.

David Byers brought the pop side to the original Saucer, and when The Shangs got going in the '90's, he and cohorts Ed and Pat O'Neill showed a deep love of '60's sultry studio work, especially from girl groups and lounge sounds. Two CD's came out then, and now this sees Byers continuing those influences, with a batch of new songs, some found recordings past and a revisit to a couple of others. The O'Neill brothers are featured on the tracks, as well as the new generation Saucer folks, including original co-founder Edgar Breau,  still leading the Saucer. But this is not like that group's energetic output. The Shangs remain pop, fun at times, psych and mellow at others. From the moody opener "Adore" to the trippy cover of Norma Tanega's obscure 1966 single "A Street That Rhymes At 6 AM," this is a fascinating journey filled with delightful sounds and deep mysteries.

Byers is just as fascinated with dark Hollywood as he is with girl groups, and several of the songs are about sad tales of bit players. "Whatever Happened To Carol Wayne" is about the Tonight Show regular (the Matinee Lady) who drowned in mysterious circumstances, and "Claudine" is a tribute to the actress/singer Claudine Longet, who famously shot and killed her boyfriend, Olympic skier Spider Sabich.

At times, such as the cover of the Goffin/King number "Just A Little Boy," The Shangs recall the later studio meanderings of Brian Wilson, with a low-fi charm. Elsewhere, that same demo-like quality recalls the fuzzy warbles of XTC's Andy Partridge, unpolished gems better left alone than overworked. This is absolutely a headphones album, even one to drift off to sleep with, or at least another consciousness. Thanks for keeping it going, Mr. Byers.

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