Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Record review: The Shams Band - 'Champagne'

Posted by Bobby

On Champagne, the debut album from The Shams Band, the Chicago five-piece floats and jangles through genres and imagery in a way that makes them seem both familiar and indefinable, like a place you recognize in a dream. I think that's a great place to be for a young band, somewhere where the audience is constantly reminded of things they like, but never so much so that they are reminded of the same thing twice.

What I really dug about this record, and this band, is it proves that if good songwriters get together (The Shams Band has three) and perform their songs with a unified energy, then the whole will have its own solid identity. By the time I got to the end of the album, I didn't feel the need to categorize it at all - it was just Champagne. The first track, "Lean Into Love," showcases Paul Gulyas' ability to fantastically describe both urban and rural scenes in an inventive and romantic light. I like my folk rock with a side of magic, and I thought the song was a great introduction to just how much flows beneath The Shams Band's earnest good time rock 'n' roll. That theme and poetry are revisited beautifully later in the album on the track "City Swept Away."

The album has Wilco-esque folk rock songs, bourbon-doused blues and even a fantastic Neil Young-meets-Modest Mouse minor chord haunt called "Blue Canal," where the grit and tumble of The Shams Band's styled solos gets some spotlight, too . My personal favorite track on the album is the Motown, almost doo-wop, slow dance tune called "Gently." This song shows just how diverse The Shams Band can be while still remaining true to their signature honest rock 'n' roll. The melodies are complex and gorgeously conceived, the backing vocals are delicate and lovely and the guitar practically oozes moonlight. When Paul sings "'cause so many girls in this crazy cruel world are just taking revenge on someone who left them," and asks the proverbial "girl" to keep his heart gently, he is asking with the wisened voice of a blue collar rock poet who already knows the most likely outcome of his request. But if life weren't so hard on all the poor boys out there, there would be no records like this, that offer the consolation, celebration and stiff drinks needed to get by.

Check out The Shams Band live at one of their upcoming local shows, including October 3 at the EP Theater Garden Festival, November 5 at Elbo Room and December 4 at the Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival at Congress Theater.


  1. I had the pleasure of enjoying the Shams this summer on their midwest tour. Great music from great people! Xoxo

  2. Definitely the real thing going on here! Love DesPLaines River, Working Man and Shelley from that earlier release...gimme more!

  3. just checked out CHAMPAGNE on their bandcamp - "Pour Me A Drink" reminds me of a Doors song. What a way to close the album! http://theshamsband.bandcamp.com/

  4. I FUCKS with the Shams band!