The Shames | MUSIC: Homebrew | Indy Week

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The Shames

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You could get away with calling Live (v.) Along bedroom music, but not because it sounds like Barry White. Clay Merritt, working as a one-man Shames, captured Live's contents while staying in a friend's guest room, a space whose amenities included not only a pullout sofa but also a digital eight-track recorder. (Merritt has since put together another full-band incarnation of The Shames, featuring Regina Hexaphone's Chris Clemmons on bass, keyboardist Ileana Rodriguez, and former Backslider Jeff "JD" Dennis on drums, as well as trusty Korg Rhythm sampler, Earl.)

That setting led to an album of quiet hooks, pensive moods, and Velcro melodies. Keyboards and acoustic guitars set most of the scenes, with the resulting medium-fi orchestral pop serving as a fine backdrop for Merritt's expressive vocals. The 10 songs, alternately confessional and questioning, echo the emotion-heavy work of Ron Sexsmith ("Falling Out"), Aimee Mann ("You Do This All the Time"), Chris Bell ("Do It Right"), and Elliott Smith (the lovely, album-capping "In Case"). Then there's the exemplary "Lilac," which sounds like a mid early-period Elvis Costello 45 slowed down to 33 rpm, complete with the biting pivotal line, "You lie like the truth's to blame." And, at its best, Live (v.) Along recalls the granddaddy of all 2 a.m. pop records, Big Star's Sister Lovers. Think of it as sounds made late at night for people who like to listen to music late at night.

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