The Sheens – 163EP Album Review

NYC’s The Sheens 163 EP Review

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The first time I saw New York, I had to spend most of the time in a 14th floor hotel room watching Freakazoid! for three days, and the only view out the window was the biggest multi-lane highway I’ve ever seen.   My second trip to the area was more fun, but not exactly a bulls-eye.  I was still relatively young and reckless, so what was supposed to be a relaxing, fun-filled trip turned into four fun, drunken days at the Chelsea Star Hotel (a hostel) with a raucous group of the friendliest Canadians (are there other types of Canadians?).  I pick up accents easily and merely being in such close contact with them for those few days caused me to carry a Canadian accent for several weeks after we left.  My regards to Nova Scotia.

By day three, we were all threatened with eviction from the hostel when the cleaning lady saw that the only dresser in the 8 person room was completely covered with empty liquor and beer bottles. We had intended to see a band from upstate New York called Merit at Arlene’s Grocery. However, someone decided that mixing the Rum that was left with the Tequila that was left was a good idea. My point is I got on the train, as usual, but instead of making my way to the venue, I found myself at Strawberry Fields trying desperately to figure out how to get to the Ghostbuster’s fire station.  I made up for this stupidity by going to see Neko Case at the Nokia theater on my last night in the city.

The reason for that little jaunt down memory lane is because The Sheens actually remind me of the band that I had intended to see on that trip. And, The Sheens play Arlene’s Grocery pretty frequently, it seems. So, maybe it’s not a total coincidence.

163EP starts off perfectly with a song called “Dynamite”. It rises with a little bit of rattling guitar, a quirky, bouncy bassline, and what sounds like a very subtle use of the bassier end of a piano. Once the vocals kick in it’s almost too obvious that this song would be infinitely more fun in person, in a dark, dingy, sweaty club. Dance-ability is high, but not in a totally obvious way. You could stand there, fold your arms, scowl and have a perfectly decent time watching the band play this song. You could also take off your jacket, double check your laces, and hit the dance floor just as easily and you’d be almost guaranteed an amazing time.

Continuing on, “Do You Love Me” achieves more of the same, but with a slightly more punk rock feel. The lyrics are basic and don’t offer anything particularly impressive, but they are sung with heart and sincerity and that’s really all that I’m after, anyway. It’s rock and roll without an agenda.  It doesn’t care who you are, what you make, or how you dress. If you like to kick back, let loose and shake your hips, The Sheens are on your side. They just sound…friendly. The vibe is unpretentious, humble, and most of all, genuine, and it is very refreshing and appreciated to hear.

The most defining aspect of their sound is the way that they are able to slide into every song like it’s a favorite sweater.  The guitar jangles and rattles, the bass follows in with a grin on it’s face, the cymbals shiver  a little before Cat starts singing.  “Hey Little Something” is an upbeat, sing-along that hums at a steady pace before giving way to “Dark Side”.  Her voice, as well as the music, seems to take a slightly melancholy detour, but along with the opener this track is a favorite.  “Every Night, Every Day” gets back on track with more up-tempo romping before unceremoniously ending the EP.

This record hit me with some happy, albeit fuzzy, memories that I hadn’t visited in a while. I got visions of seeing stranger after stranger go past, never to see the same face twice.  The bright lights of Time Square at night.  The sex museum on 5th Ave and a fantastic gypsy musical off-broadway. I can’t really compare The Sheens to anyone, aside from the aforementioned Merit, because I haven’t heard anything quite like them. The city breathes the sound into the music and to experience one without the other is really like reading half a book or watching half of a movie. Most of their shows seem to be in the NYC area but hopefully they will tour soon. In the event that they don’t, just writing this has made me nostalgic and I think it’s time to start planning a new trip back to the big city. This time I will be able to navigate the subways and make it to the venue. Who else is in? I’m serious.


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