The Shaky Hands Lunglight

[Kill Rock Stars/Holocene Music; 2008]

Rating: 1.5/5

Styles: jangle rock
Others: The Castanets, Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes, Le Loup

With Lunglight, their second album, The Shaky Hands have foregone the folksier tendencies of their debut, relying more heavily on electric guitars and a more insistent vocal presence. Their lyrics remain facelessly vague, still delivered with Nick Delffs' Conor Oberst-via-Damon Albarn-via-Tom Petty vibrato; lines like "Show Me Your Life"'s "We could be free in the country/ Far from the city lights/ That have been tearing my soul" are typical of their hopelessly generic musings, while "World's Gone Mad"'s "See it comin' in his eyes/ You better stay where you can hide/ Took your money faithless friend/ Just keep on working, keep your head" employs their almost mind-numbingly relentless AABB rhyme schemes.

"Neighbors" does some interesting stuff with sweltering, abstract guitar explorations set to half the tempo most of these songs adhere to. "Love All Of" is an admirable stab at substance-through-darkness, even a little psychedelic in its whale-like guitar moans. But even these songs aren't quite believable, and elsewhere one gets the sense that there's something dishonest about the enthusiasm of their sound.

It's almost hard to believe it's the same band this time around, on this record only mildly ramshackle and far more slick, with fewer instrumental anomalies. What was once shambling and humble and fun has turned into another anonymous, swaggering, guitar-driven indie rock act. The only thing they seem to have hung onto is the banal imagery of their lyrics and even their track titles. With a miracle, the support of their Portland, Oregon fanbase will help them evolve into something worthwhile; otherwise, things are looking grim for The Shaky Hands.

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