When: Wed., Oct. 7, 9 p.m. 2015
SHANNON AND THE CLAMS | WEDNESDAY, OCT. 7
THE PINHOOK, DURHAM—When Shannon and The Clams issued a faithful cover of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" as a B-side in 2012, it should have been obvious that they were bound for surprising sounds. But the Oakland trio had emerged from the same lo-fi garage rock scene that spawned Nobunny and Hunx and His Punx, all retro-obsessed acts whose revisions of '50s teen-idol pop and doo-wop also paid tribute to The Cramps and John Waters. Clams conductor Shannon Shaw even plays a side role in Hunx and His Punx. Led by Shaw's powerful voice, the Clams built a strong catalog of vintage-style pop, dirtied up by distortion and hiss.
The band's early albums—2009's I Wanna Go Home and 2011's Sleep Talk—earned garage-scene acclaim. At its best, the band skewed Buddy Holly-style songs and mined new thrills from old sounds, with Shaw's voice providing the thrilling X factor. When the Clams started cleaning up their sound for 2013's Rats in the Dream House, they played to their strengths and spit-shined the songs only enough to prove they hadn't used distortion just to blur imperfections.
The new Gone By the Dawn, issued by Hardly Art in September, shows a new side of Shannon and the Clams altogether. Without shedding any of the doo-wop trappings of their past work, Gone scrubs away the last vestiges of Shannon & The Clams' lo-fi scuzz and spotlights elements once obscured by the mess. "My Man" goes deep soul, with Shaw's vocal dropping to a lower register, evoking Wilson Pickett and Etta James. "Corvette" shades a gooey teen-idol love song with Grace Slick psychedelia. "How Long," perhaps the best showcase of Shaw's voice yet, uses the country drama of Patsy Cline's smoldering heartbreak,
Gone's cleaner and richer production suits Shannon and The Clams. The songwriting's classicist bent no longer feels like a charming novelty, and guitarist Cody Blanchard seems freed by the space. His screwball solos on "It's Too Late" are inspired. Like that "White Rabbit" cover, the band's direction on Gone seems at first unexpected. But it's an obvious step for an already strong but expanding catalog. Cool Ghouls open. 9 p.m., $10–$12, 117 W. Main St., Durham, 919-667-1100, www.thepinhook.com. —Bryan C. Reed