The three guys in Shadowclub are seriously groomed and styled to the extent where Emma, a 20-year old of my acquaintance, remarked that they look like models when I showed her the CD I had just bought at The African Music Store, along with a Fela Ransome Kuti album from the early Seventies. Nice contrast this: the Nigerian revolutionary musician and king of Afrobeat versus 3 young White guys from southern Africa who make music that does not sound very much informed by Africa at all.
A month or so ago there was a live set on MK recorded at some venue in Greenside Johannesburg where Machineri and Shadowclub performed. I guess both bands have a buzz. Machineri just played their patented riff and wail type songs and Shadowclub impressed me mightily with a powerful trio sound that seamlessly married muscle and melody.
Guns And Money (2011) is their debut album and the immediate first impression is that the production values on this record give them an immense presence on disc, a room filling sound of awesome proportions.
Shadowclub probably owes as much of a debt to the blues as Machineri claims they do. It is not exactly the blues of the Mississippi Delta either, though it may be filtering through the punk attitude of the music. This is not the punk of the Sex Pistols, but the punk of the Pacific Northwest circa 1965 when a bunch of young White guys mixed up their roots with the new style of the Rolling Stones and Animals who were copying old Black American guys in the first place, and produced an outrageously energetic sound inspired as much by pissed off teenage hormones as it was influenced by rocked up blues. Shadowclub have seemingly internalised that attitude and that anger, have turned up their amps and are coming for us. I, for one, welcome them with open arms. They can have my mind.
On the opening track I hear an echo of "Purple Haze" and elsewhere too, and the dissonant noise blues of Chris Whitley in the later years of his career. There is the 22-20's a British group of young blues enthusiasts who interpreted the old blues themes with a modern twist, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion who did something similar in the USA, and many more. There is even a quick flash here and there of Robin Trower, minus his guitar virtuosity. Who knows what lurks in these guys' record collection?
The sound is bottom heavy and harmonies and tunes float on top. The guitar throws hard rock shapes from days gone by, with that all important contemporary revisionism and does not quite break into the frenzied soloing one would expect, and I guess that is the saving grace. Jacques Moolman does not want to be Stevie Ray Vaughan. In fact there is a much more garage rock enthusiasm here than Texas roadhouse blues professionalism. This is where and how Shadowclub can be distinguished from The Pretty Blue Guns, a much more traditionally inclined blues rock band with rather more subtlety. Shadowclub are quite gleeful in showing off their guitar noise, as can be heard in the title track of the album, which is a major show piece of exhilarating rave up.
If I have ever heard an assured debut, this is it. It is confident, brash and inspired. It delivers on the promise of a brief glimpse on television, and with interest. When I saw the album in The African Music Store I took it without a second thought even though the store offers the option of listening to albums before you make your decision. My decision was made by the mere presence of the album in the kind of situation where I had not been looking for it. I found it. That was enough reason to buy it. I was not disappointed.
The good and salutary thing about Shadowclub is that they do not give us the weedy, wishy washy, jingly jangly kind of music that passes for modern rock these days. They do go large and they sound incredibly ambitious and they pull it off. This is sexy music simply because it dares so much and does not shrink from boldness. The last local rock album with this much absurdly enthralling greatness going for it, is New Holland's Exploded View.
These guys do not lurk in the shadows and they will not easily be overshadowed.