You may also have wondered why neither Mary or myself has weighed in on it to date.
Well, the answer is that Mary has been toiling on the definitive biography of said band for over two years -- it will be available over here any nanosecond now -- and I was fortunate enough to pen the intro to said tome. And as a result we both feel a little too close to the album and band to be even remotely objective about their latest.
That said, friend of PowerPop Sal Nunziato, proprietor of the inestimable Burning Wood, has kindly consented to let us reprint the review he posted over there earlier this summer.
SHOES: SHINY, NEW & YET, VERY COMFORTABLE
I have a memory of a Creem magazine ad, 1977 maybe, for a record called Black Vinyl Shoes, by a band called Shoes. Usually, my mind traps this kind of trivia. But all I can recollect, aside from the ad, is a rave review by the mag and great disappointment upon hearing the album.
I don't blame the band. I blame myself, my still backward listening habits, and my inability to effectively think about something other than the new Bad Company record.
Jump to 1979, and a record called Present Tense by this same band called Shoes spins relentlessly on my Technics turntable for weeks and weeks and weeks. It was that record, for me at least, that set a standard for what we now call Power Pop. Black Vinyl Shoes may not have officially been the first power pop record, but for me, Shoes were the first power pop band.
More records followed, each screaming with mellifluous harmonies and those damned melodies to die for. I am a Shoes fan.
"Too Late," "Burned Out Love," "Tomorrow Night," "The Summer Rain," "Karen." "The Things You Do."
These songs, among others, were hook-filled miracles. Much needed fresh air from MTV's overload during the early part of the 80s.
And now...the boys of Zion, Illinois are back with Ignition.
It's a killer.
And yes, just maybe... 35 years later...their best record yet.
Every song on Ignition offers something...that one special riff, or background vocal hook...that made me say, "This is the one." By the end of the record, I had a dozen favorite songs.
From the opener, "Head Vs. Heart," with the subtle yet always effective bass drop-out on the refrain, a trick that gets me every time, to the call and answer chorus on "Diminishing Returns," to the beautiful melancholy of "Where Will It End," this new entry in a very special Shoes catalogue delivers. It's big, and if you're a fan of perfectly crafted pop tunes, or a sucker for three-part harmony, you will be hard-pressed to take Ignition off.
Brothers Jeff & John Murphy and Gary Klebe have done something few bands have achieved. They've created a sound and they own it. I will go on record by saying, no band sounds like Shoes.
I've gushed enough, but it is that good.
In short -- what Sal said.
To which I will add that Robert Christgau once famously observed that if you don't like the Rolling Stones, you simply don't like rock-and-roll as a form. Pretty much the same thing can be said about Shoes and Power Pop.
Have I mentioned that this is the album of the year?