Shanghai Love Motel
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Shanghai Love Motel

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Rock Alternative


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Thrum. 2009: Hai Shang Hua (Muckblooms) Records. CD, 11 tracks.

Several tracks from Thrum have received airplay at WUSB-FM (Stonybrook, NY), particularly "The Universal Skeptical Anthem" and "King of Memory."



Shanghai Love Motel draws from the old weird America, the acute angles of bebop harmony, the original British Invasion (and all the times we've invaded them back), the spare and edgy postpunk years, and the deep groove that unites all real rock 'n' roll.

Some hear echoes of Richard Thompson, Elvis Costello, Neil Young, NRBQ, Tom Verlaine, Los Lobos, and Mission of Burma in this band's sound. (Some also pick up the occasional hit of Thomas Pynchon, or a pint of Seamus Heaney, or a shot of James Ellroy.) There are hooks; there are complexities; there are surprises; there are roots, not all of which are obvious. Guitarists Bryan Brown and Adam Russell develop a purposeful contrapuntal weave that reminds listeners of Verlaine and Richard Lloyd's work in Television, Thompson's work with Fairport, or occasionally (dare we say it?) the Stones. Songwriters/singers Brown and Bill Millard, individually and together, offer portraits of characters in states of disturbance, dread, and vision -- sometimes darkly comical, sometimes subtly political, sometimes exuberant. Through it all, from the back-door odd-meter experiments to the straight-ahead classic-punk uproar, SLM's rhythms rely on the blues/soul/swing knowledge that drummer Mark Hennessy has deep in his bones.

On the debut album Thrum, SLM also includes strategic contributions by two worthy colleagues, jazz keyboardist Dave Cook and Celtic mandolinist Bill Bell. Production and engineering by Nick Miller and Godfrey Diamond -- with early tracks recorded at NYC's legendary Hit Factory before its unfortunate demise -- gives Thrum the kind of sonic clarity, depth, and realism that has nearly gone extinct in the era of pitch-correction software and canned rhythms. SLM is not above throwing the occasional curveball (listen closely for the attack of the synth helicopters!), but the band views gimmicks, glitz, bombast, and nostalgia with equal scorn. Thrum is the kind of record that reveals more layers and grows more impressive with repeated listenings. This is rock 'n' roll by and for adults.