The Jakes – Shake My Hand
Record Label: none
Release Date: August 18, 2008
There are a number of ways to put on a show without actually playing a live performance. Some bands dress up their tunes in vaudevillian pizzazz, all plinky-plunky and dramatic (see: the artists formerly known as Panic! at the Disco). Some take the layered approached, planting condensed musical seeds that burst and bloom into vast soundscapes that are as thickly visual as they are aural (Moving Mountains, anyone?). Other bands, like The Jakes, package a slick set of rock songs into a release that for all of its cocksure maturity and tight, catchy production, can easily be confused with a veteran stadium show. Shake My Hand is just such a collection: these boys aren’t fooling around.
Following a year’s worth of lineup changes and extensive soul-searching, this spatially-diverse sextet (the members are enrolled in various colleges and high schools spread across the greater Los Angeles area) have managed to tease a seven-track album out of a seemingly endless number of road-trips, conference calls, and practice sessions. It sure has paid off. The band immediately sheds any conception of ‘young’ or ‘inexperienced’ as they rip into “Garands at Normandie” with glorious distortion, pumping drums, and cymbals a-crashing. Sameer Gadhia’s massive vocals lay the groundwork for an incredible performance that runs the gamut throughout Shake My Hand. Switching instantly from massive arcs to swaggering grins to whiskey-worn wails, Gadhia impresses almost constantly.
With an absolute minimum number of years under their belt, The Jakes easily get away with a potent helping of attitude. Dressed in groove, “Paid the Piper” must surely have been recorded with a collective smug smile, while “Schizophrenia,” the obvious radio-friendly single candidate, vaults through a rollercoaster ride of organ-infused vocal acrobatics. The album’s title track then lowers the pulse a few notches with some decent, although not transcendent, indie vibes that provide a nice transition to the album’s concluding tunes. “Take Me Home” should, by all rights, be just another acoustic throw-in on an otherwise rock-friendly release. Somehow it isn’t though. Gadhia’s smoky vocals rest ever-so-lightly on a single guitar, moving with a surprisingly soft and gracefully bluesy soul. One of the most satisfying, and deceptive, album enders in recent memory, “Texas Tea” begins as a straight-forward rock tune as Gadhia laments “so I say to the lord I’m so tired of this mess/ But the nation still burns at night, my ribs the coal of progress.” With two minutes remaining, the lyrics devolve into an echoing chorale backed by crunchy chords and rolling percussion that is so vibrantly organic, so naturally uplifting, that it wouldn’t be out of place in an indie reprise of the Lion King, or maybe Paul Simon’s Graceland. A seventh track like this makes seven tracks seem far too few.
There’s no mystery surrounding Shake My Hand. The Jakes have made a tough situation work for them in a big way. Cribbing together a mess of locations and six musical perspectives, this band has somehow managed to set the stage for a takeover. Success should be nipping at their heels, so be sure you’ve got tickets to the show. It’s definitely too good to miss.