Sometimes being a music critic can be one of shittiest gigs on the planet.
Take last week’s review of Ephryme’s latest album, for instance. I didn’t want to give the guy a bad review. Hell, I don’t wanna give any artist a negative review. It sucks! Then again, having to listen to some artists can be soul-sucking experiences in their own right!
So, it’s always like a little gift when a label like JDub Records is oh-so kind enough to drop a sample copy of the one-of-a-kind, wondrous, mischievous, and hugely enjoyable gem that is Shotnez’s self-titled debut into my lap.
There are those of you, out there, that may already be familiar with the previous work of the dynamic duo that has orchestrated Shotnez, Tamir Muskat and Ori Kaplan. After all, they’re two parts of the wildly popular Israeli musical trio, Balkan Beat Box.
As an admirer of the latter act, one might be skeptical that Shotnez might be one of those crappy side-job, solo albums that artists in bands tend to throw out—ya know, so the world can see just how awesome they are without the band that got them to where they were in the first place!—to score some extra money for their blow habit. Rest assured, from start to finish, “Shotnez” is full of fun, wonder, excitement, and even a hint of danger, in that, well, try as you might to follow along (even upon multiple listens), you’re never quite sure what direction each song is headed.
In other words, it reignites that hope in your heart—you know the one: that maybe – just maybe – the music industry hasn’t completely lost its way.
Take the opening track, “Stolen Goods” for instance. It’s like a rollercoaster, with its ups, downs, lefts, rights and somersault assault to the senses—in a good way, for once! Listening to it, with its klezmer sound and frenzied theme-park sound and fury, I couldn’t help thinking that these guys could do a kick-ass film score, especially for the likes of, say, Tim Burton.
The song reminded me of Danny Elfman, back when he was, ya know, a relevant composer—fresh off his success with Oingo Boingo, before he became a maestro of self-important pap. More specifically, “Goods” reminded me of what fun Elfman’s score to Tim Burton’s ode to gleeful childulthood (yes, I created a new word! Use it liberally!), “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” was…and still is.
In other words, Tim Burton should consider Shotnez as an immediate successor to Elfman, for future film partnerships.
The third track on Shotnez, “Golden Apple” is absolutely gorgeous, with its hints of East Asia, mixed with acid-trippy guitar rhythms and anthemic percussions, like one those great blitzed-out Santana songs of old (1969’s “Soul Sacrifice,” for example).
“New Country,” the album’s fifth track, has a Spanish, bluesy feel to it. It has a film noir sound to it; like, any second, you feel as though some lusty, busty femme fatale might walk through the door. The following track, “Chaos,” on the other hand, is playful, fast-moving—like a runaway freight train.
In my notes, while listening to track eight, “A New Low,” I wrote “sounds like someone’s up to no good” and “full of mischief.” Trust me: I know how what a new low sounds like. I’ve been there. These guys have got it down pat.
“Black Eyed Susan,” with its squiggly synth sounds, stellar horn arrangement, and raw-nerve guitar licks, is blissfully sorrowful.
The last track on this amazing album, “Make It Run” is actually a departure from everything that’s come before it, featuring some very rough, whisky-soaked vocal crooning that comes across like a love child between Nick Cave and Tom Waits. And wouldn’t that be a helluva thing!!
Hey, ya never know? Miracles do happen, right?
After all, the mere existence of Shotnez certainly proves that theory.