Well Oh Well
New York City indie rockers The Shake are back with a spanking new album, just two years after their debut rocked the scene. Well, Oh Well is the mature, older brother to The Shake's 2006's freshman opus Kick It. "We've really grown as songwriters," says lead vocalist Jon Merkin about this natural progression. "The songs are more in depth and serious while keeping the balls-to-the-wall music." Their sophomore album is composed of well-crafted tunes that the band members spent a lot of time perfecting - all while managing full college course loads. "We realized that if we took more time to think about the lyrics, chord structures and patterns, we could come up with a better album," Merkin further explains. Bassist Jeremy Stein attributes the great songs on Well, Oh Well to the fact that the band members are now more comfortable playing with one another. "There was room to show off our musical identities a little bit more and everyone got a chance to shine a bit," he says. "You get more of an eclectic feel with this album." Well, Oh Well's 10 tracks feature a unique blend of rock from both the old and new schools. Some songs have a harder edge, while others lean towards the alternative end of the spectrum - all laced with a pop tinge. It's title track is an instantly infectious song that encapsulates the emotion of the entire album. From songs about alcoholism (the great album opener "Shots," is a real rocker), to suicide (the mellow "Eden's Shore,"), to loneliness ("YNA"-a snappy song you can dance to!), to breakups ("Isn't It Obvious?"), The Shake's new album focuses on subject matter that is sure to touch home with all listeners. "The songs are very upbeat and exciting but have lyrics that are more mature, which we thought was an interesting contrast," Merkin says. Lead guitarist Eliad Shapiro agrees. "Many of the lyrics focus on telling the stories of tragic characters that we felt would resonate with the listener. 'Families & Christmas Trees' is about an old man reflecting on a bitter life. 'You're Still Young, Melanie' tells the story of a homeless man. 'Good Girl' is about a prostitute you feel sympathy for because she doesn't want to lead her life as she does, but ends up having no choice." An instrumental ditty, an acoustic ballad and a cover of a famous tune by The Who further allowed the foursome the freedom to experiment musically. "The instrumental track, 'Spinning,' is fun to play and a cool thing to listen to," states Shapiro. "The acoustic 'Eden's Shore' gives the album a nice bit of diversity. And, 'This Is My Generation' I was nervous to put on the CD-because you just don't tamper with a song that's a part of the rock and roll cannon-but I'm proud we did because we nailed it doesn't sound like any other cover of it that I've heard." Why is that? Maybe because the song's intro features a very heavy, original riff. "We thought it was a killer riff and it worked well with the song," enthuses Merkin. Shapiro agrees. "It's a song that anybody who hears it knows, but won't realize it until the first minute has passed. We're messing with a classic but I think we do it justice." The Shake gives music fans a complete album with Well, Oh Well-the kind of CD you can listen to from start to finish, over and over again. Merkin and Shapiro founded The Shake in June 2005 after high school. "The first few times we sat down, we churned out a lot of songs," explains Merkin. "We were impressed with how well we meshed together. We really compliment each other nicely in terms of writing melodies, chords and lyrics and the first few times we played together, there was a real energy." In their search for a bassist, Merkin and Shapiro recruited Stein, who Merkin met while studying abroad. New drummer Vishal Kumar replaced The Shake's original skinsman in 2007. They met Kumar while sharing a bill with another local band. "I heard their new stuff and was into it," says Kumar, who only got to play on one tune, "You're Still Young, Melanie." "He's a professional and phenomenal," says Stein about his rhythm partner. "Vish jumped right in and fit the bill perfectly. He's great on all levels. He gets us and we get him." (For the record, the original drummer plays on six tracks, Merkin plays the drums on two songs and Stein on one.) "It's really exciting to have an album out with new songs to define us by," says Merkin, in conclusion, about Well, Oh Well. "I don't think any of us thought that we would write the quality of songs that we've written. We thought we were just going to be one of those typical college bands that plays the bars - we've risen above that."