The Shys’ Not Saving Rock ’n’ Roll With ‘Astoria’

JASON TURNER
The Lantern
Ohio State University

(U-WIRE) COLUMBUS, Ohio — Music fans might expect an album that sounds like The Hives, The Strokes, The Vines and The Black Crowes all rolled into one would sound good, but in the case of The Shys, they would be wrong.

Their recent album “Astoria” is an unflattering tribute to the bands that saved rock ‘n’ roll, regurgitating tired songs and unimaginative musicianship, coming dangerously close to plagiarizing the bands they obviously enjoy.

Similar to Frankenstein or the Bionic Man, The Shys sound is a tapestry of scavenged pieces. Their uniquely unoriginal music features parts and ideas that have been borrowed from other people and places, like a collection of trinkets stolen from the lost-and-found.

Listeners unlucky enough to own the album, can tell from the collage of pictures inside the album jacket that The Shys know how to look cool, they’re just pretending to be The Strokes. The California quartet does their best New York impression with flipped collars and scarves, dark pea coats and meticulously styled, bed-head hair. The lead singer of the band could win a Julian Casablancas look-alike contest, or at the very least play him in a made-for-TV movie.

Unfortunately, the comparisons don’t end there. The Shys also use the same fuzzy voice technique made popular by Casablancas and The Strokes to bury lead singer, Kyle Krone’s scratchy vocals.

Although many bands have used a similar distorted vocal technique, few have relied on it so exclusively. The good news is that listeners will recognize at least two major differences between the singers: Casablancas is much better, and Krone sings with a fake British accent most of the time.

The first single from the album, “Call in the Calvary” sounds like the unofficial sequel to The White Stripes “One Nation Army.” It begins with a disturbingly similar intro, featuring a ringing kick drum and a nearly identical guitar riff. It’s not bad but it’s not good either, just disappointing like sugar-free candy or Wal-Mart brand Pop Tarts.

On “Waiting on the Sun” The Shys get soulful with a Black Crowe-esque tribute to Southern rock. The song drags badly as Krone struggles to hit the notes, wailing on the chorus like an “American Idol” contestant who doesn’t make it through to Hollywood.

Despite its apparent lack of creativity, it would be unfair to say that “Astoria” is not at least lyrically unique. There is no doubt that the band wrote their own song lyrics because if they had gotten them from anyone else they would be much better. From the incoherent babble on “Open Up the Sky,” to the puzzling propaganda on “Radio Rebellion,” The Shys will leave listeners scratching their heads.

“Astoria” isn’t nearly as bad as it is bland and it will probably have more than its fair share of supporters who don’t mind that it’s completely unoriginal and somewhat dated. There is always room on the bandwagon for bands who want to make music that has already been done. Listeners shouldn’t be surprised to hear The Shys’ music playing in the mall at a place like Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle, and in a couple years they shouldn’t be surprised to see the members of the band working there.