After a few false starts, the three album run of Canada’s Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet has been finally reissued in expanded form on LP, CD and digital download!
Formed in Toronto in 1984, this instrumental trio released a number of singles and EPs before dropping this compilation album in 1988. The original sixteen track lineup cherry-picked from 1985’sLove Without Words, 1986’s Wow Flutter Hiss ’86, 1987’s Schlagers!And Live Record With Extra Bread And Cheese and 1988’sExplosion Of Taste. Out of the gate, this was a trio to be reckoned with, as their compositional and instrumental talents collided with a wicked sense of humor. Though often pegged as a surf rock band (leading eventually to the composition “We’re Not a Fucking Surf Band”), they were more truly an instrumental combo in the vein of the Shadows, Link Wray (whose 1963 single “Run Chicken Run” is covered here), the Fireballs and peers like the Raybeats and Pell Mell.
The collection’s most familiar tune is likely to be “Having an Average Weekend,” which gained exposure as the theme for Kids in the Hall, but listeners will also recognize “Harlem by the Sea,” as it gives a rousing guitar-rock twist to the Viscounts’ moody “Harlem Nocturne.” Other highlights include the deep bass and tense guitar of “Zombie Compromise” and the Cramps-like “Vibrolux Deluxe.” Bonuses on the 2016 reissue include the primitive “Big Saxophone Lie,” which (appropriately) doesn’t feature a saxophone, covers of Erroll Garner’s “Misty” and Heinz Meier’s “Summer Wind,” the Charles Burns-narrated “Big Baby,” and a sax fueled version of “Customized.” Remastered from the original tapes, this is the album’s first CD reissue since 1993, and first-ever digital download. A must have for instrumental rock fans!
Three years after collecting together singles and EPs for their 1988 full-length debut, Savvy Show Stoppers, this Toronto instrumental trio released their first full album of new material. The band augments their twangy guitar instrumentals with organ, harmonica and whistling, and edits in odd bits of dialogue here and there. Their original material is complemented by covers of the Beach Boys’ “In My Room” and Sonny Bono’s “Bang Bang,”, and Louis Prima’s swing-era “Sing, Sing, Sing” is threaded into the original “I Know a Guy Named Larry.”
As on their debut, the band’s rhythm section drives Brian Connelly’s guitar, and the music stretches beyond instrumental rock to include blues, jazz and post-punk. Yep Roc’s 2016 reissue adds bonus tracks from 1989’s Tired of Waking Up Tired, 1991’s Music for Pets and 1994’s It’s a Wonderful Records! Missing from the digital download are bonuses that accompanied the original vinyl (“Vinyl”), cassette (“Tape, Tape, You Bought Our Tape”) and CD (“Thanks For Buying Our CD”), as well as a Johnny Kidd cover (“Shakin’ All Over”) that appeared on all three. But even without those original extras, this is a sweet second chapter!
The third and final album from this Canadian trio features plenty of the twangy, boss guitar for which they were known, including the rockabilly-styled “Fortune Tellin’ Chicken” and a revved-up cover of Gene Pitney’s tale of forbidden love, “Mecca.” The latter’s surf style is wiped-out a few tracks later by the post-punk declaration, “We’re Not a Fucking Surf Band.” The trio stretches out with Celtic and progressive flavors in “Spend a Night, Not a Fortune,” hypnotic mystery in “Relax, You Will Think You Are A Chicken,” surf vs. spy drama in “Plastics for 500, Bob,” and terrific, jazz-like interplay in “Cheese in the Fridge.” The album also includes the group’s first (and hopefully only) melodic vocal, on the saccharine “The Singing Cowboy.”
Duane Eddy, Link Wray and other guitar giants echo throughout the album, and the crescendo of a live cover of Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over” can be found as an unlisted bonus at the end of “Babywetsitself.” Yep Roc’s 2016 reissue features seven bonus tracks, including two (“Lick” and “Sugar in My Hog”) drawn from Fred Schneider’s 1996 solo album, Just Fred. The bonuses close with a six-minute medley of signature riffs from the B-52s, Nirvana, Deep Purple, Dee-Lite, T-Rex, Mott the Hoople, Kinks, Rolling Stones, Ramones, Bad Company, Alice Cooper, Cream, Thin Lizzy, Sly & The Family Stone, Gary Glitter, Sweet, Golden Earring and many others. The band dissolved three years later, and after several false starts, their catalog is finally back in print! [©2016 Hyperbolium]