The Blind Shake
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The Blind Shake

Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States | INDIE

Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Punk

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Finding a band with a sound and stage presence that matches the implications of their name isn't easy. There are (too many) metal and emo bands who think they have accomplished this (sorry, Saves the Day, you simply didn't), and from a practical standpoint, it's the sort of thing that will almost always sound ridiculously contrived if a band actually aims for it.

In the case of Minneapolis-based punk trio The Blind Shake, drawing a direct line between their moniker and their music wasn't on the agenda. According to guitarist Jim Blaha, it's simply morbid wordplay on "The Blind Sheik," the sociopathic fellow who first tried to blow up the World Trade Center. "We're sort of running from that association, actually," explains Blaha via phone on a break from his daytime coffee-pulling gig.

While an unfounded association with terrorism is something the caustic and angular post-punk act is understandably avoiding, what they don't realize is how accurately that name reflects what they exude when they plug in. Through the interplay of their dueling baritone and straight guitars, Jim Blaha and his lookalike brother Mike create such an unnervingly taut and unpredictable tension that the anticipation of release (typically arrived at via a bright snare crash from dramatic drummer Dave Roper) leaves the listener with almost no choice but to close their eyes and rattle off of the next sonic cliff they choose to scale. Their chosen medium is bristling with energy that is somehow both unbridled and uptight, the same duality that propelled acts like Unwound, Drive Like Jehu, and Fugazi; Blaha freely admits the latter was a strong influence in the band's infancy. "When we weren't in a band and [were] just music fans, that's definitely what we listened to," he says. "'Post-punk'...whatever you want to call it. I think we also had just a flat-out shared love of rock 'n' roll, whether it was garage rock or psychedelic stuff, I think that's always kind of been there."

Indeed, that "psychedelic stuff" also took them down a particularly adventurous path when they ended up collaborating with another, more high-profile Minneapolis musical peer, revered psychedelic surveyor Michael Yonkers. After a chance meeting a couple of years ago, Blaha invited Yonkers to The Blind Shake's next gig. "We had a show that weekend and he actually came. And he really liked it," says Blaha, still sounding incredulous. "About a year down the line, the booking agent for the [landmark Minneapolis venue] Turf Club was booking his birthday party and asked Yonkers if he'd be interested in doing a song with us. It went so well that he called back and asked the band to collaborate with him on a batch of new songs. We were just floored. He truly was at the time—and still is—my favorite songwriter." The band just finished recording a split 12-inch with Yonkers, which is set for release on Learning Curve Records early next spring. "If nothing else happens [for the band], I'm pretty content with that happening," says Blaha.

Well, I'm not content with that; The Blind Shake are definitely ready for their due, with or without famous collaborators. The previous time they came through town, they played a sparsely attended Saturday matinee show at the Sunset. Not since an early Sleater-Kinney show at a nearly empty Velvet Elvis had I felt so selfishly thrilled to see such an undeniably powerful band play to such a mysteriously minimal audience. For The Blind Shake's sake, I hope I have to fight my way to the front this time: They deserve to have all ears tuned to them when they play the Sunset this Thursday night, October 30, with the Cops and Police Teeth.
- Seattle Weekly


The Blind Shake
www.myspace.com/theblindshake
It's said that great art should be out of reach, but just barely. Perhaps that's why the Blind Shake have such an engaging live presence. There is something familiar in their blood-and-guts garage rock, but it's only distantly familiar, like the map of a dream. Strident and asphyxiating, their songs are hypnoses of too many decibels. And with just three wee pieces? It's a gourmet food fight on a fast-food budget. Catch them while you can. Stand close enough to the stage and you just might feel your head splitting apart at the seams. - City Pages


Noisy garage rock kindred spirits Micheal Yonkers and the Blind Shake have combined for their second album together with the release of Cold Town/Soft Zodiak. The first part of the disc, Cold Town, finds Yonkers playing alongside the Blind Shake while the last portion, Soft Zodiak, has the Blind Shake playing their own material sans Yonkers. The 27 minute album is a snarling joy that shows two Minneapolis institutions firing on all cylinders to create on of the strongest Twin Cities’ releases of 2009.

It seemed like a completely natural fit when Minneapolis noise rock legend Micheal Yonkers and local fuzz rock trio the Blind Shake came together to record their debut album, Carbohydrates Hydrocarbons, in 2008. During this past decade, Yonkers has rightfully been placed on a pedestal after his lost classic Microminiature Love was re-issued. While Yonkers has been spending the last few years reaping the rewards of the album, which in all reality should have been bestowed on him three decades ago, the Blind Shake were slowly becoming one of the most powerful and dynamic rock bands in the Twin Cities music scene.

Cold Town/Soft Zodiac starts out with a hazy fuzz that should be all too familiar to fans of the band, with Yonkers’ burnt out vocals singing “Don’t ever say that I didn’t try to help you.â€? Instead of sounding sad, the droning musical backdrop of “What Can I Doâ€? makes Yonkers’ menacing vocals sound like a demented trip down the rabbit hole. A layer of the metallic din is scaled back on the more psychedelic “Were You in the Way.â€? This is followed with a straightforward garage rocker titled “I Want to Tell You,â€? which features buzzing, but restrained, guitars juxtaposed with a steady cymbal groove that slides into pounding series of tom-tom beats. “Seventh Heavenâ€? is an instrumental break that starts out with a Kinks-sounding guitar part before the band adds buzz saw-like guitars to the mix.

With “Cold Town” the Blind Shake’s Jim and Mike Blaha step in to assist Yonkers with the song’s vocal harmonies. The song, with a simple melodic structure, is a great example of what makes the two acts so great together. While “Cold Town” relies on a traditional arrangement, the dynamics of the song never allow it to fall into something that sounds trite or like a retread of the Nuggets catalog (as some artists are apt to do). There are guitar squeaks and slight dynamic changes that allow the song to be both accessible and unusual, without sounding forced or intentionally disconnected. “Beforeâ€? is another instrumental that features the prominent Blind Shake formula (baritone guitar rhythm, slicing lead guitar and massive drums) with a helping hand from Yonkers’ noisemaker guitar parts. “When You’re Fallin’â€? sounds like a church hymn on acid, with lockstep drums and melding guitars, with Yonkers singing “When you’re falling, we will fly.â€? With this song the band holds back on the noisy outbursts while creating one of the most direct songs on the album. Seemingly making up lost time from “When You’re Fallin,â€? they finish up the Yonkers-section of the disc with the brooding and fractured song “The New End.â€? The track—another instrumental—lets the bottom fall out a few times and simmers on for 2:30 of mind bending noise heroics
- Culture Bully


Discography

Cold Town/Soft Zodiac (2009 Learning Curve Records, split LP/CD Michael Yonkers with The Blind Shake/The Blind Shake)
Weepy Man (2008 split 7" with Birthday Suits, Learning Curve Records)
Carmel (2007 Learning Curve Records, full length LP/CD)
Carbohydrates, Hydrocarbons - Michael Yonkers with The Blind Shake(2007 Nero's Neptune LP, Go Johnny GO CD USA, Farm Girl Records CD UK)
Rizzograph (Learning Curve Records 2005)
Old Lines, Sore Bones (Fort Gezeppi 2004 7")

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Bio

The Blind Shake are trio of detuned, garage-stomp, noisy punk rock music makers from Minneapois, MN. Known for ferocious live shows and home recorded albums, the band released Rizzograph (2005), Carmel (2007), and a split 7” with Birthday Suits (2008) all on Learning Curve Records. In 2007, they recorded the critically acclaimed collaboration Carbohydrates, Hydrocarbons with noise legend Michael Yonkers as Michael Yonkers with the Blind Shake (Nero’s Neptune 2007) as well as Cold Town/Soft Zodiac split EP featuring Michael Yonkers with The Blind Shake on one side and The Blind Shake on the other (Learning Curve 2009). Two brothers, Mike and Jim Blaha, front the band and play baritone and regular guitar respectively. Longtime chum Dave Roper plays drums. The Blind Shake have toured North America's basements and bars for several years.

The Blind Shake were awarded Minneapolis City Pages "Best Live Artist of 2009", while their Cold Town/Soft Zodiac split LP made several "best of" lists for the same year. National Public Radio featured Michael Yonkers with The Blind Shake song "When You're Fallen" as the song of the day. Recently, The Blind Shake song "Wise Mr. Owl" was selected as the theme music for MTV's extreme transportation show MegaDrive.