Rick Shaffer’s Searchin’ For The Thing That’s Got No Name

SEARCHIN’ FOR THE THING THAT’S GOT NO NAME: RICK SHAFFER CHANNELS HIS INNER BEAT MOJO ON 3rd SOLO ALBUM, IDIOT FLATS

Long story short: this record burns with a wicked swagger that most artists in today’s marketplace would feel hard-pressed to match, let alone top.
We need some kind of rock ‘n’ roll highwaymen to wipe away those social ills that the original ’77 punks hoped to blot from the landscape – yet continue to bubble over with a noxious fever that makes every cardboard ’80s Steeltown movie landscape seem like paradise, by comparison.

Double-digit unemployment?  Check.  A never-ending drought that turned the most well-manicured lawn to brown?  Double-check.  The serpentine wind of consumer debt used to gut the American Dream, as in, “Keep the plebs quiet through interest rates that go up, up and away?”  Triple-check . . . hell, the only missing ingredient is a royal jubilee (don’t worry, somebody’s probably got that scenario fleshed out in a drawer somewhere) . . . so this is what bowling alone got us, I guess.

With its repeated calls to flout conformity and convention, Idiot Flats makes the perfect soundscape for this social-Darwin-on-steroids-mess that we take for current culture.  When I interviewed Rick for this site in the fall of 2010, he’d just released his first solo album, Necessary Illusion, which moved me to joke with him: “When the Rolling Stones finally figure out how to get their ’64-era mojo back, it’s gonna sound like this stuff.”

Those tendencies grew even further pronounced on Rick’s second solo album, Hidden Charms, and burst gloriously to the fore here – wrapped around fuzz guitars, psychedelic drones and hill country blues, goosed along by shaker, or tambourine-driven backbeats (courtesy of Les Chisholm and the colorfully-named Boo Boo Spencer).  Except for a few extra bass bits from Leon Wingfield, Rick’s carrying the musical load here (guitar, bass, lead vocals and percussion).

And carry it, he does, from the opening bell of “Unforgiven Man,” a driving, ’60s-ish slice of Beat manifesto that throws down (“get deep inside his naked eyes, he’s got nothing to hide”), capped by some ad-libbed howls near the end: “Well, C’MON!  Well, C’MON!”  That’s the perfect setup for “One More Heartache,” whose spaghetti western twangs can’t mask its darker, freakbeat-tinged undercurrent, one born of convention-bustin’ aggression (“Well, it’s so bad/you don’t know/end up doing just what you’re told”).

Nostalgia-mongers don’t fare any better here on “Around The Bend,” which clangs along a fuzz-guitar-laden R&B groove (You keep on askin’ me about the good old days/But I’m sorry, man, they’re comin’ to an end). The same story goes for “Getting Low,” another declaration of intent (“Take it or leave it were words I often heard/Why are you so stressed and so disturbed?”) that marries its fuzzy chunk-a-chunk to some tastefully twangin’ guitar leads, plus a six-pack of attitude (“I ain’t wastin’ time, just waiting on you/I’m getting busy, just seein’ this through”).

That makes two more standouts in an album brimming with ’em, which is all down to Rick’s strengths as an arranger – and is truly the secret weapon here.  Just when you think it’s impossible to wring anymore mileage from this brew of ’60s garage, hill country blues and freak beat pysch, you get surprises like “Remember” – basically, an uptempo cocktail of the above-detailed elements, held together by a highly-mixed tambourine, one of many subtle textures put to good use here.

On “Idiot Flats,” Rick lets his Southwestern blueswailin’ side hang out, over an understated, mid−tempo funky bed of drums and tambourine – as he recalls his chance encounter, Marquee Moon-style, with an old, been-there-done-that sage who warns him about the ways of the straight world (“This world gets too unkind/If you don’t live/If you don’t do/If you think now, brother, like they want you to”), and its never-ending encroachments on your life, but not in this particular company, where no tune breaches the four-minute mark – a welcome alternative to this age of CD and DVD bloat.

I could go on forever, but you get the idea.  As I mentioned at the beginning, whether it’s the state of rock ‘n’ roll, or our increasingly sorry,  Soviet-style culture, we’re way overdue for some changes – and Idiot Flats will give you the conviction to lead that charge.  If you only know Rick from his New Wave pioneer era in The Reds®, you’ve heard half the story – the rest of it’s here, and the contents will make you a believer out of you in a hurry.  Here’s to the real hissing of summer lawns!

Highlights: Unforgiven Man, One More Heartache, Idiot Flats, Around The Bend, Getting Low.

Lowlights: None, dammit!

Rating: 5 out of 5

● Chairman Ralph – Ministry Of Truth

(Ralph Heibutzki is the author of “Unfinished Business: The Life & Times of Danny Gatton.”  His articles have appeared in Bass Player, DISCoveries, Goldmine, Guitar Player, Vintage Guitar, and is a regular contributor to the All Music Guide.)

Enter The ORANGE COUNTRY REVERB CONTEST To Win An Autographed IDIOT FLATS CD

Visit Canada’s ORANGE COUNTRY REVERB to enter their contest to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of RICK SHAFFER’S new album, IDIOT FLATS.

DZ tha DoK says, “Rick Shaffer is a legend in the making.”

Skope’s DZ tha Dok interview with Rick Shaffer about his new album, IDIOT FLATS, can be read by clicking on INTERVIEW.

YOKO & SEAN LENNON ● ARTISTS AGAINST FRACKING

Visit YOKO and SEAN LENNON’S new web site, ARTISTS AGAINST FRACKING, to help save our water BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

The BL Rag says, “Rick Shaffer is for fans of Iggy Pop and 16 Horsepower”

For fans of seriously hooky rock n’ roll of the more badass variety (Iggy & The Stooges, 16 Horsepower, Tom Waits, etc), take a close listen to the surprisingly masterful work of Rick Shaffer on his new release IDIOT FLATS, which I can honestly say there isn’t a miss on. Must-listen tracks include “One More Heartache”, “Dangerous Dance” and “Getting Low”. Note: this is not your average, clean-with-a-perfect-sheen modern rock. But it’s probably what you’ve been waiting for.

THE BL RAG − Music Watch − RHYTHM & TRUTH IN MUSIC

Click on the song title to get a FREE mp3 of “ONE MORE HEARTACHE

All Tarock Music Artist mp3′s → Available @ CD BABY!

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Luxembourg Gladly Enters IDIOT FLATS Time Machine

I first took notice of Rick Shaffer back in 2007 when his band The Reds® released their exceptional comeback album Fugitives From The Laughing House.  This was followed two years later by the equally appealing Early Nothing, and since then Mr Shaffer has been busily releasing solo albums.  I always thought that Necessary Illusion from 2010 was his first solo venture, but now I find myself surprised that he did already one as early as 1971, one year before I was born.

This means of course that Rick Shaffer is by no means a youngster, but as on his previous records, he never sounds old and weary.  I missed his last album Hidden Charms, but the new one – Idiot Flats – is frankly not that different from what I have come to expect of him.  Playing the guitars, bass and some percussion, and of course in charge of the vocals, he only hired the services of a drummer and an additional bassist for the ten tracks featured on this new CD.  The recipe is still quite the same: garage rock rooted in the early Sixties, inspired by early Stones and the Pretty Things, funneled into concise three minute tracks that overwhelm their audience with reverb driven guitar, bluesy melodies and Shaffer’s cool, distanced voice that reminds occasionally of Lou Reed and Alan Vega.  The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are another band he can be likened to, for all those who started listening to music in the Nineties, a long time after Rick Shaffer began his active musical career.

It’s hard to highlight any specific song, as the whole album is one extraordinarily listenable experience from the beginning to the end.  Last time I complained a little about the CD’s short length, but this time I guess I have come to accept that this kind of music works best in smaller doses.  Idiot Flats never sounds modern, and always catches the atmosphere of Sixties garage rock, and while this would feel fake with a lot of younger artists, Rick Shaffer has the necessary experience and years in the music business to make it all work.  Fans of dirty, unpolished fuzzy garage blues rock will feel as if they have just stepped out of a time machine.

Pascal Thiel ● DisAgreement ● Luxembourg