From the swamps of Pennsylvania crawls Rick Shaffer’s Necessary Illusion solo debut. It’s sonically descended from his recent Reds work with Bruce Cohen, and this album is totally Shaffer’s baby. He does almost everything himself, apart from some additional bass and percussion on a few tracks.
The music is steeped in ’60s garage rock and dirty blues, with a grimy, bottom-of-the-swamp sound, and approaches proto-punk. Think Stooges and Cramps, and throw in the occasional Neil Young wail or old Stones vibe.
A couple of songs manage to break this mold: “Burnin’ Hell” is the album’s fastest, most percussive song, Johnny Cash-meets-The Stooges, while “Can’t Go On” is its cheeriest and poppiest, with resolute Iggy Pop/Mick Jagger vocals over an “It’s Not Unusual” bass line. But the rest offer little variation in composition or arrangement, with several unfolding over languid, “Fever”-like grooves.
Opener “Lucky Day” sets the template, with ghostly blues guitar rising from a fog of fuzzy devil bass a la The Cramps. “Gettin’ Deeper,” with its Neil Young-y vocals and slow dingy guitar, is a “Farmer John” knockoff. If The Stooges and Cramps had made a song together, all the way down to Iggy Pop and The Cramps’ Lux Interior somehow melding voices, that song would be “Two Weeks.” “Shakin’ Hips” offers some of the dirtiest blues around, with a slow, moaning guitar, scraping barrel-bottoms of pain and grief, slithering over a doleful bass.
Maybe the most interesting thing about Necessary Illusion is how Shaffer’s voice moves so fluidly between Pop, Interior, Jagger and Young, depending the song. It’s like a holograph changing with the viewer’s angle of observation. Holographic vocals: one illusion that improves the album. More are necessary.
• Jody McCutcheon • CHARTattack (Canada) • September 24, 2010 • Rating: 3 (out of 5)