I Put a Spell on You
Rock, roll and wail at Voodoo Scooters
By Captain America
Voodoo Scooters is truly a full service shop: sales, repairs, maintenance, art gallery and an occasional all-ages rock venue. Scoots are rolled away to make room for amps, drums and music lovers. Sound spills outside, encouraging passersby who just ate at the nearby Frontier Restaurant to linger on the sidewalk. Monday’s show will either lure them in or chase ’em away. It doesn’t much matter, as the tiny place is sure to be packed.
From Oakland, Shannon and the Clams has an early ’60s aesthetic but is far from derivative. Singer Shannon plays a sleek Danelectro bass, known for its fine tone. She’s garnered comparisons to Wanda Jackson and Beth Ditto (The Gossip) for her ovaries-out vocal delivery—but that’s too obvious. I can hear the emotional delivery of Betty Everett (“The Shoop Shoop Song”) or, especially during the bridge of “Blood,” Judy Craig in “He’s So Fine” (The Chiffons).
“Blood” kicks off with a slamming drum intro by Ian Clam. His rapid-fire rolls and fills are a signature of the group, prominent in the mix and propelling the songs with the kinetic energy of a human cannonball. He also sings harmony, tempering Shannon’s wail. Cody Clam plays grubby reverb/garage riffs on guitar. For a trio—an arrangement that only works if everyone is at their best—Shannon and the Clams build an impressive wall of sound.
Don’t get the idea it’s all crash and trash. Shannon’s vocals on tearjerkers such as “Heartbreak” and “I Wanna Go Home” are akin to the power of 15-year-old Mary Weiss’ (The Shangri-Las) with a serrated edge. Some of the lyrics are so firmly tongue in cheek it must be difficult to sing, but Shannon pulls it off with aplomb.
The recordings of The Intelligence have a high level of audio compression that equalizes the soft and loud sounds even at high volume, a time-honored trick of producers like Phil Spector. This serves the band’s material well, from the three- (or is that two-and-a-half?) chord “Dating Cops” to the droning rock of “Cheer Up Switch.” It’s fitting that the band is signed to In The Red Records—even when played at low levels, The Intelligence sounds like it’s blowing your speaker cones.
This Seattle band has been tagged as part of the glue wave scene. Like all descriptions derived from the term “new wave,” the sound—DIY lo-fi punk with synth beats—isn’t really new at all. Musically, new wave applied to a melodic version of early punk but still stripped to the essentials. In French film, la nouvelle vague was a neorealist rejection of cliché replaced with iconoclasm. All of this applies to The Intelligence.
Singer Downtown L.A. Finberg is reminiscent of the early Modern Lovers’ Jonathan Richman after too many beers chased by a handful of Dexatrim. On bass, Costly Welbutrin shakes you from the floor up. He’s complemented by the subterranean thump of Miss Anne Throw Up on drums that seem as if they were recorded down a long hallway. The Zenith’s lo-fi guitar tremolo is less lead instrument than accent to the rhythm section, while Big Bird’s keyboards squall beneath it all. No one would categorize The Intelligence as “dance,” but with firm beats this set promises to be danceable regardless.
Two locals acts open the show. First up is Beyababa a.k.a. Towondo Clayborn (Occasional Detroit) performing abstract and experimental hip-rock. With hommade break beats, avant white noise and guitar, you never know in which direction Beyababa will venture. Be prepared to duck and cover. Jenny Invert (formerly Grand Canyon) plays 4/4 country with an indie rock turn while spinning decidedly un-country tales of DWI, pills, holes in your soul and marching across the Volga.
The Intelligence, Shannon and the Clams, Jenny Invert, Beyababa
Monday, Nov. 8, 7 p.m.
2318 Central SE
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