Music review of new Night Shapes album

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I’ve never had the chance to review an album in the actual midst of the band’s national tour that features the album. So this is exciting for me. It means when I listen to the dark, brooding sounds of the opening song, entitled simply “No”, I can imagine the crowd in Philadelphia on November 1 being caught unawares by the hardness of the thing and only gradually letting their bodies begin to act out the feelings stirred up inside by the live music. It means I can envision the folks in Chicago on November 5 closing their eyes and rocking to something that sounds like an alien world, in back-to-back songs called  “The Future” and “Post-Future (I’m Changing)”. In many venues across the country, something will indeed be changing.

In this new album Wake Up, the band Night Shapes has produced something very different than what I expected. That’s not a bad thing: It’s an album with a definite theme. It paints a picture. It tells a troubling tale. The music and the lyrics are bound together like fingers in a fist. Wake Up is almost a rock opera, and it’s not an easy composition to interpret. It’s awash with images of garbage and urban decay. There are things that sound like sirens in the night. Fear is a common thread. So are truth and lies. It makes me think about the way our society may be heading toward dystopia. In that sense, the album is a strident Wake Up call. It could be the soundtrack for 1984. Orwell should hear it.

Orwell should hear the vocals. They are deeply baritone, authoritative and not of this world. They penetrate to someplace remote in the brain that doesn’t usually like to be disturbed. In a song with the weird title of “Floor Thompson”, the lead voice is joined by a medieval choir that has to harmonize under a hammering beat and chilling sirens. Those instrumental effects are not unique to that particular track: throughout the album, the guitars and synthesizer do whatever it takes and go wherever they are told to go. And they go to some pretty interesting places.

The emotional high point of the album, for me, is the song “Take it Back”. The words, the voice that pulsates them into our brains, and the music that underscores them reach almost to a fever pitch, almost a frantic plea. I wish I understood exactly what that plea is all about. I know it’s something important, and I know that Night Shapes knows that each of us has to get at those truths, and lies, in our own way and in our own time. That’s a journey. They’ve given us a vehicle. It runs on sound waves, dark and variously shaped. I like the waves they fill it with. It runs just fine.

Listen or purchase here:

Chuck Redman

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