Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
There's a great line in a Dale Watson song that goes, "Whiskey or God/ Gonna bring me relief/Believin' or not/Bending my elbow or my knees/I'm gonna drink until my conscience bleeds/Before I fall asleep I'm gonna say a prayer for a brighter day/Whiskey or God/Bring salvation to me." It's a group of phrases that the young English band, while not anything like the country music legend in style, demeanor or sound, could really latch onto and embrace as a personal sentiment. You might be able to take that God part out, add the word gun or pills and while the verse would lose a bunch of its cleverness, the mood of everything wouldn't change all that much. The group's latest full-length, a dingy and lurching record of hardscrabble times and situations, the cruel times and the cruel minds causing shakes, shivers and moans - along with the record's title, aside from its distinguishing features - is a beacon for the powers of self-medication or throwing all hope to something divine, pleading for the assistance needed to just get through the ugliness. We're thinking that the pubs are frequented and yet what results from those benders and therapies tend to be ruminations on the work that has gone into the recovery process, but the finished products are rightfully mellow at times - but only barely so. To this man, the group comes off as able deliverers of a kind of rock and roll that, while pushing on the many touchstones of aggrieved melancholy, delve into those tempers in a way that never compromises how much better the effects could be with more volume and more balls. An album like, "Shake, Shiver, Moan," takes us back over a decade ago, before the band Travis was writing less than stellar odes to sorrow and rain and making a truly breathtaking debut rock album such as, "Good Feeling," a record that I find to be of the same caliber as "(What's The Story) Morning Glory" and "Definitely Maybe," in the pantheon of the greatest English rock albums of the 90s. It's an album that gets plenty of its cues from the heart, but it attacks them in a sort of beaten and battered way, turning the tone into something that, while it's existing on the strength of its disappointment and pain, it's something to listen and pay attention to because of the dynamic response taking to all of the dismantling and getting pissed upon by those who would have been least suspected of doing such a thing. The 22-20s, from Sleaford, Lincolnshire and started by buddies Martin Trimble and Glen Bartup, are able to write themselves onto the list of young bands going down the road of influences and emulation in the correct way - deriving pointers, but never cribbing so recklessly from those that they admire. There are tasty snippets of tone in Trimble's vocals that sound like a rich collage of Lennon, Royston Langdon and numerous others, creating a sound that one would think always has an ashed down, half of a cigarette hanging from its mouth. Many of the songs on "Shake, Shiver, Moan," speak to us as valiant tries at keeping a head up, but if it's not one thing, it's another for these protagonists and they're just waiting for the other shoe to drop. The pleasure's not worth the pain, Trimble sings at one point in "4th Floor" and follows it up later with the line, "Time has taught you so/Keep your expectations low/Time has taught you slow/But you should know by now." It's all about manageable expectations and making sure that it's always remembered that times are tough, but we are not, so bring on the booze, if that's the way you'd like to do it.