By the time we get to the title-track, halfway through this album, you can hear a perfect combination of Wanda Jackson and Amy Winehouse; a midway-meeting; that should (almost) be all you need to know regarding whether this is for you or not – it’s a fantastic song, and recording. It’s near-perfect. It’s got throwback written all around it and yet it shines as if something (almost) truly new.
But before we get there you’ll wade past one or two filler cuts. Fortunately though there’s always a nice lick of guitar or organ, a great drum sound, strong vocals (backing and lead) and just a great party vibe to it. So even as it very nearly stalls (It’s Gonna Go Away) there’s still something infectious. It’s like someone decided to write their own music after only listening to Quentin Tarantino soundtracks. Or, well, something like that…
Of course Shannon Shaw and her Clams are several albums deep – and it’s a sound that is wholly derivative, intentionally.
But Onion is a career highpoint, in part because it’s the first album the Oakland, Calif. band has released since that dreadful late 2016 fire that rocked their hometown. Over 30 people were killed in a hub for artists and musicians. It was a heavy blow for Oakland’s artistic community and it informs this new record by the Clams.
Backstreets – an album highlight, maybe the finest track here – has singer Cody Blanchard holler-croons, “where do we go/when there’s no place to run?” – alternating it with “we’re taking the backstreets/where no one can find us”; you could enjoy this song without knowing the tribute-gesture it is making, you could dig it as a great song without knowing the story. But when you do know, when you stop to think about it, there’s something mesmeric about, a darkness that comes from Roy Orbison and Dion.
Shaw hits in big on If You Could Know. She’s also a huge vocal presence on the country-pop of Love Strike.
I Leave Again is like The Mummies or some of those mondo-trasho 60s garage comps you find. And love.
It’s actually almost all pretty great. Whenever there’s not a ‘song’ as such there’s huge heart, or at least some elegant bluffing.
Dan Auerbach in in the producer’s chair, reminding that as a hired gun, or a benevolent presence he is a wizard. And has great taste. Plus, bonus: whatever stops him from making another Black Keys album is just fine with me.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron