Review by Paul Broome
Acoustic tracks by rock bands are just a way to fill space aren’t they? Need a B-side? Just record a quick acoustic version of the A-side. Want to offer a few free bonus album tracks? Just whack a few acoustic versions on there. Quick and cheap to record, fans are happy – bish, bash, bosh – job’s a good ‘un.
Generally, I would agree with this sentiment – but anyone who has witnessed one of New Killer Shoes acoustic sets will know first-hand that when they unplug their instruments, they don’t unplug their desire to excite an audience.
Thus, this isn’t just an album of stripped down acoustic versions of tracks from their frankly superb debut album I Ain’t Even Lyin’ (Ed: Paul’s review of that album is here) – well, it is that, but not in the way you would expect. They have taken each of these songs and – under the careful guidance of producer Baz Bayliss – deconstructed them, and re-built them afresh with startlingly original results.
Just listen to album opener ‘Love Rocket’ – the track that is their usual electric set closer, a bombastic epic balls-to-the-wall rock out, has been transformed into a moody, downbeat, whispered threat of a southern rock groove pitched somewhere between Tricky and Alabama 3. New single ‘Hypocrite’ goes full-on skank reggae rock – strolling down Redditch high street in a blaze of sunshine, and a haze of ganja smoke. It’s a total joy, a ready-made summer in a song.
And that’s the thrill of New Killer Shoes – they wear their inspirations on their sleeves, and weave them all together with a youthful enthusiasm and a freshness that other bands just don’t seem to be able to capture. All four band members (and special guests) shine, with the reduced complexity of the mix giving them even more of a chance to exhibit their skills as musicians and vocalists.
Other highlights include the increased tenderness in ‘Smooth’, ‘Make Your Move’ which evolves from a stalking riff to a rarefied middle-8, the glorious ‘Snake Charmer’, new track (but long-time NKS fan classic) ‘I Ain’t Got a Chick’ and the frankly intimidating version of ‘I Know You Want It’ that closes the album.
This isn’t a bonus disc to the electric album; this is a fully-fledged, finely-honed statement of intent – an essential album in its own right. Buy it.
9 out of 10
- Love Rocket
- Leave Me Alone
- Make Your Move
- Pretty Reckless
- Snake Charmer
- Throwin’ Shapes
- I Ain’t Got a Chick
- I Know You Want It