The Shimshaws
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The Shimshaws

Littleton, Colorado, United States | INDIE

Littleton, Colorado, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Alternative


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Shimshaws - Subcutaneous"

Memorable songs can be said to get under your skin—hence the title of this particular release. To its credit, Subcutaneous does have a number of songs that might qualify, though what fascinates me most about this collection is the range displayed by the two musical brothers that are the Shimshaws.

If this were a major label release, most likely the Shimshaws would be asked to pick one style and stick with it throughout. Luckily, this isn’t the case here—there’s a healthy variety for the listener to choose from with no wasted tracks—they’re all well done.

Todd McCombs (vocals, organ, piano) and Scott McCombs (vocals, guitars) have been a performing/songwriting team for some 15 years. In the early ‘90s, they were part of the Quesadas (and released three albums). When that band broke up, the brothers began working on a new project, joining forces with drummer Kevin Lehman. They formed a new band, and set out to record an album. Those sessions would lead to the creation of the Shimshaws, and this is their debut album (under this name). Additional musicians include Lehman, Paul Rogalski (bass), Jeff Cowles (mandolin), and Christin Patterson (cello and violin).

The album leads off with “Bona Fide”, a raunchy pub rocker with a confident Rolling Stones vibe. The vocal harmonies are nice, the guitars even nicer, and the song is about a man’s admission about being the real deal, and wondering whether he should commit to a relationship: “Baby I’m not pretending for a girl like you / But baby if I surrender, will you see me through?”

“Loathe Me” is an upbeat little punk number rife with energy that examines sexual choices people make in order to please another: “My little Paramour / Leather skin and Spanish eyes / My Latin evermore / Swallow me and steal my pride / You’re my conquistador / Tie me up, and make me cry.”

The Shimshaws shift gear into alt-country territory with “Kisses Like Rain.” This is like something you’d find on a John Hiatt or Steve Earle album (right down to the Jeff Cowles mandolin solo), a pleasantly sweet country ballad of a man stuck in time, growing older, yet still chasing love: “Will you clean my whistle, have you had enough? / Do you love my kisses, will you call my bluff? / I’m a lot less thicker than I used to be / If I stop my running will you marry me? / Will you bury me?”

More alt-country fun can be found in the song “I’m on My Way”. It’s a simple story type of a song, nothing too deep or overly meaningful, and features great piano and harmonies.

“Every Minute” returns them to the realm of infectious, tight, guitar-driven rock (the kind of song Little Feat once did), along with an eclectic lyric about a strange man who spoke in riddles and ultimately flew away.

“Buried in the Sand” is a marvelous harmony-laden upbeat rocker that should appeal to those with an affinity for melodic power pop. “Curse the Sun” is playful, matching sporting rhymes with a great energy that’ll have you up and moving to its radio-ready rhythms.

The brothers McCombs slow into emotional ballad mode with “Breaking In”. The harmonies are rich and the vocals emotive of the pain expressed about someone else that has managed to invade the life of a former love. Another emotionally invested track is the brief “Warning Sign”, a song about failure.

Probably my favorite here is the delightful “Red, Black & Blue”. The verses feature octave-apart shared vocals and harmonies, and it really sets this song apart. Lyrically, it’s all about the unattainable girl that everyone loves: “She’s the girl with her mind in the middle / Her aim is true / She’s the girl with a heart like a riddle / Red, black and blue.”

A close runner-up is “Should’ve Been Good to You”, chock full of sweet harmonies and jangly guitars. Here, the simple lyrics convey the nostalgic look back at a “shoulda, woulda, coulda” kind of deal, a relationship gone awry and wished back upon: “Into you, I want to be / Over you, I’ll never be / Over me… oh say you’ll never be.”

The CD closes with the somber and beautiful love song “Lost over You”. Well-placed strings accent the feelings in this brief, yet touching confession of not being able to help but being so in love.

These 12 songs are endearingly well-written and executed masterfully (and split right down the middle, six by Todd and six by Scott). The Shimshaws seem to know their stuff, and have assembled a fun collection that strays a bit from the straight and narrow, extending into rootsy alt-country at times, then veering back to rock.

Subcutaneous is an auspicious debut from a brother team that excels in harmony, hooks, and melody, an affable musical diversion for the summer months ahead. They manage to serve up winning songs that never overstay their welcome and ultimately leave you only wanting more. -


Good Times Machine (released in 1998 using the name Those Meddling Kids); Subcutaneous (2004); Ear to the Wire (2008)



The Shimshaws are brothers Todd McCombs (vocals, piano, organ) and Scott McCombs (vocals, guitars, bass guitar). Todd lives in Virginia and Scott lives in Colorado. They write & record separately but get together in Colorado a few times a year to record, ski (weather permitting) and drink beer.

The Shimshaws have released two CD’s so far — Ear To The Wire in 2008 and Subcutaneous in 2004. Both CD’s contain guitar-driven, melodic pop/rock songs that reflect a range of influences including the Beatles, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend, James Taylor, REM, Replacements, Steve Earle, Tom Petty, Nirvana, Uncle Tupelo, Radiohead (the Bends!), Black Crowes, and many more.

The songs on Ear To The Wire were written and produced by the McCombs brothers and were primarily recorded at Scott’s home studio in Highlands Ranch — drums were recorded at Colorado Sound in 2007. The Shimshaws worked closely with JP Manza at Colorado Sound to mix the songs. JP has worked with artists including Yo Flaco, Wendy Woo, Matisyahu, T.V. On The Radio, Yellowcard and Franz Ferdinand. Tom Capek at Colorado Sound mastered the CD.

In the age of iTunes and short attention spans, The Shimshaws still believe in the “album” format — and since they are not beholden to a record label, they wrote and recorded until they were satisfied with the end product — we think you will be too. Give Ear To The Wire a few listens and let the hooky goodness get under your skin. Thanks for listening and don’t forget to turn it up!