Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet …
Imagine an oblique surfin' & spyin' collection of guitar instrumentals encompassing the best elements of Duane Eddy twang and the Ventures bear transcended onto the next level with a nod to the B52's (stolen) bass riffs and you have a beginning to what SHADOWY MEN are all about!
Three Canadians, with more than a pinch of humour make up the team. DON PYLE keeps the beat regular, REID DIAMOND anchors the bass and guitarist BRIAN CONNELLY knows the secret of the Om riff backwards. They used to have a vocalist but he quit and after attempting unsuccessfully to fill the vocal roles themselves decided not to mince words but keep it to a strictly instrumental level. This means of course that you gotta be good otherwise everybody in the audience will go to sleep. This is something that is impossible to happen at a SHADOWY MEN gig!
Since their formation in October '84 they have become a popular club circuit band and one of their early ideas was to record on 8 track a selection of melodies from "The Graduate" film. After fulfilling two such orders the machine broke and the idea was scrapped. Those two original master copies are now priceless!
During a session in the summer of '85 they put out the first in a series of 7" EPs called Love Without Words. Side 1 revolves arouns a B52's beat 'n bass lines of "Our Weapons Are Useless" with a great wedge of sticky guitar. Side 2 takes us down to "Bennett Cerf" where the tide never turns and a bright beaty attack causes sand to be kicked over little brats faces. Finally, you find them "Having An Average Weekend" a brilliant, Ventures inspired ballad with a beautiful billowing sound right out of the "twist" era.
During '86 a second EP slipped out, Wow Flutter Hiss '86 and this had better distribution in their own country although all material is released on their Jetpac label. The bassy, almost rockabilly beat of "Theme From TV" is blessed with a hungry eye, a surfed up tune building to an early climax. "Zombie Compromise" by contrast is all twangy strings with a hard riffola and eyeless beat. Flip over for a hard ride on your "Customized" wheels, smell the oil as your engine burns out but wait, the best is yet to come! "Shake Some Evil" is slow, sinister, stealthy movements like wading through some back swamp in the early morning mists. It twangs clean, gleaming silvery notes, tweaked from a blind bird's eye, steals the teardrop from a lonely child's eye. It just about sums up what SM are all about.
During August, feeling bored with themselves, they embarked on a tour and headed out towards Calgary and Vancouver. They played to slim attendance and lesser mortals would have packed up there and then, but the SHADOWY MEN? No! Returning home, rich in experience there was need to record another masterful EP. This time based around a game called Schlagers! which comes free with the record, the music was as inspired as ever with even more tracks. "Egypt Texas", a moody beat twangster that reminded me of a reshaped "Pipeline" was followed by the solid performance of "Good Cop Bad Cop" with some pounding drumwork and sharp, positive guitar style. Side 2 opens to the brief excitement of "Shadowy Countdown" before driving through the old Earl Bostic standard "Harlem Nocturne" but retitled "Harlem By The Sea"! This is how rock 'n' roll should evolve, excitement guaranteed! The ultra-brief echoey drum and guitar buildup of "Malfunction" is interrupted by a voice who insists "Please fasten your seat belts" and "Thank you". Strap in and vibrate, mate!
To get up to date, in mid-June '87 the band played a local gig named The Rivoli and the first 250 lucky entrants received the ultimate gift, a live EP known simply as Live Record With Extra Bread And Cheese (WRC 3). One side has "Shadowy Countdown", "Woman Shake", "You Spin Me Round '86" and it plays around 46 RPM. The first track is a chaotic vocal or more accurately a voice and guitar mixdown before the hoarse voice introduces the next number getting extremely excitable! "Spin" has the added delight of an organ lead and does not emulate the Tornados. Side 2 is untitled and after a few snippets of crowd noise (in fact, the group toyed with the idea of producing the EP of just crowd noise at one stage!!) a voice intros various pieces including a brief tape of Tom Jones to please the Welsh portion of the audience. Then suddenly the word "Laser men" emerges and the gallops out with splinters of guitar. If this is SM live, I'm missing the fun.
The RayBeats may have started this kind of rekindled awareness of the early 60s but they were at times too clean and clinical for their own good. These guys wanna blast you away with a guitar beat that just won't stop here. More tours are forecast for New York and East Canada and even the possibility of a UK gig in '88 cannot be ruled out.
I have imported a few copies of each of the 3 EPs, Love Without Words, Wow Flutter Hiss '86, and Schlagers! and can be purchased directly from me at £3.00 each including postage and good packing. The group now have their own specially designed T shirts available direct at:
SHADOWY MEN ON A SHADOWY PLANET c/o 334 ST. JOHN'S RD., TORONTO, ONTARIO M6S 2K4, CANADA.