3 stars (out of 4)
Originally out of
"Ignition" (Black Vinyl) marks the trio's first studio album in 18 years, and it's a cool-breeze reaffirmation of Shoes' enduring strengths. The group has come full circle back to their '70s do-it-yourself foundation, once again working at their home studio (now in Wisconsin) and self-releasing the music. Time has eroded some of the boyishness from the singers' voices, but the three-part harmonies still exert a hypnotic pull. Klebe and the Murphy brothers trade off the lead vocals, and there are subtle differences in each. But mostly the songs strike a plaintive or melancholy tone – a sense of "diminishing returns" (in the words of John Murphy's song of the same name) as relationships age and innocence fades. Inevitably, the music transcends all maladies.
The 15 tracks refine a sound that the band has prized from the beginning, with vocals and guitars creating a rich weave of melody over John Richardson’s steady-as-she-goes drumming. But it’s not like the band is standing still. Klebe’s “Sign of Life” provides redemption, with a soaring chorus against a counterpoint guitar line. “Hot Mess” arrives at a critical point, midway through the album, providing some kick-out-the-jams release with John Murphy doing a