|Shugaazer Shugaazer||Atenzia Records|
Shugaazer's debut album is aptly titled, as it represents a shift in direction for frontman Paul Laine.|
Laine has recorded just the one official solo album - with a second demos collection also available – plus four albums spread over a number of years now with Danger Danger.
He is constantly writing and recording and in recent times spent a lot of time working on a new outlet for his music. Shugaazer is that outlet – a four piece based out of Laine's native Vancouver. This is a band that sees Laine shift his focus to a more modern direction and at the same time changing to a more pop orientated sound.
The songs of Shift are quite diverse and should find wide appeal. In some instances the tracks lean towards alternative pop - which is where a new audience could be found, while at other times the style isn't too far removed from that which he brought to Danger Danger – especially on their last album Return Of The Great Gildersleeves.
Above everything else, the songs on Shift are superbly crafted, intricately laced with melody and cleverly updated into a modern direction, without too much alienation of his more traditional roots.
The album is dominated by vocal melodies and song hooks rather than an obvious focus on choruses. A few songs do have that killer chorus, but the majority rely on changes in the song structure, with bridges, cleaver intros and production effects in play.
Track By Track:
Opening track Kozmonaut sends a clear message – this is a new direction and sound for Paul Laine and band. But the voice is unmistakable and the style and class is still in tact. Surrounded by production effects and a modern pop rock base, the soft rocker kicks into high gear come chorus time into a more familiar style for Laine fans. Thankfully the chorus has a monster hook and a refreshing vibe.
When You Gonna Break My Heart is an interesting track to have in the number 2 spot. The song is a mid-tempo pop ballad. A strong guitar lead through the chorus lifts the song up a notch. The verse contains some strong vocal melodies and the chorus features a pleasant hook, but I'm still not sure I like this track in the position it's in – maybe just a little laid back for track two.
Song 4 Lennon is the album's first absolute classic. I love this track. It's very slow to start, with a long building intro, but the vocal hooks come into play almost straight away and the musical style is very close to the last Danger Danger album, albeit with a lot of modern production effects. The song itself is a fairly laid back rock ballad, but the chorus cranks the song up at least 2 notches.
Stepped Into My Universe is a mid to uptempo feel good pop rocker, with a more prominent guitar riff and another strong pop hook. One of the album's more modern tracks, but one with a simple, but instantly infective chorus that sucks you in first listen.
Could the next track - Something Worth Waiting For be song of the year 2003? It's certainly in the running and remains one of the best tracks I have ever heard Paul Laine sing.
The song has a moody pop intro, which leads us through a slow tempo chorus that seems to build in intensity and come chorus time explodes into a mega ballad.
I love the haunting quality and strength in Laine's vocals, which really soar on this track and are backed by a strong guitar riff. Just awesome.
Beautiful follows on perfectly – it's the album's heaviest track and features a sound very close to that of Danger Danger. The production is again filled with tweaks and effects, but the guitar and strong lead vocal drive this track. Another killer chorus is supported by some of the best lyrics of the year. All about how the famous and beautiful people live, the song is filled with biting and socially satirical messages. Another classic!
Here Without You is far more laid back, moving back into softer territory for this modern pop track. It's another one of the more alternative tracks, but still features another strong chorus.
California is another enjoyable track and another album highlight. Featuring a more guitar driven approach, the song is still only mid-tempo, but is another great outlet for Laine's vocal talents.
Get The Hell Outta My House isn't one of my preferred tracks. This one is another modern/alternative pop track – with a little time needed before the melodies become more familiar and likeable.
Enough however, ends the album on a major high note. Building from a fade-in intro to a simple rock verse, the intensity again builds before the guitar kicks in and a big vocal hook that introduces the chorus and another layer of rocking guitar.
This is another track that wouldn't sound out of place on a Danger Danger album and ends the album on a rocking note.
This album isn't going to be a winner with all current and past fans of Danger Danger. Dedicated Paul Laine fans will find it far easier to get used to, and elsewhere, a new range of fans might find themselves falling for the charm of this great vocalist.
Traditionalists might find it a bit too modern, but this is 2003 and this is a perfect record for today.
It certainly features a more updated and modern rock approach, but the songs themselves are all built around the all important melody, so I expect many to really enjoy this album.
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