If laughter is the best medicine and music soothes the soul while taming the savage beast, we could use more Shinyribs in our lives right now.
Luckily, that joyful, Austin-based “psycho-active gulf coast funk ʼn soul” outfit (to quote their motto from an old t-shirt design) has got that medicine and brings it once again on the delightfully upbeat and at times downright silly Fog & Bling, their latest release (June 14th) from Mustard Lid Records.
The goofy, infectious fun begins right from the start with the R & B tune “Sing It Right,” wherein Mr. Shinyribs himself (Kevin “Kev” Russell, aka, the former frontman for The Gourds) intones the songʼs preamble in a nasally, muted police dispatcher voice: “Breaker 1-9… we got a big ʼol country boy down on I-10 East… Says heʼs a singer for a band… called Shinyribs!”
As the band cranks up the beat, Russell proceeds to lay down the rules for doing what the songʼs title says:
Sing it right, try to keep it in time
Oh, sing it right, do not walk on my rhyme
Know all the words and the way that they feel
Oh, sing it right, make it roll, make it real
Buoyed by longtime drummer Keith Langfordʼs solid timekeeping and Jeff Brownʼs funky basslines, and aided & abetted by Winfield Cheekʼs keyboards along with the tasty riffs of the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns (Tiger Anaya and Mark Wilson) and the sassily soulful backing vocals of Kelley Mickwee and Alice Spencer (aka, The Shiny Soul Sisters), Russell exhorts the would-be singer to
Try to transcend the song, but keep the beat where it belongs
It donʼt last long, so
Sing it right in the night, when the lights are all down
Sing it right, keep it tight, like a kite come unwound
That last line aptly captures the slightly unmoored, free-spirited precision of the album as a whole. In contrast to 2017ʼs solid I Got Your Medicine, which features some stellar songwriting but seems slightly subdued at times (at least in contrast to the bandʼs hyper-lively onstage presence), Fog & Bling comes across like a hopped-up, horn-tooting dance party teetering on the edge of all-out delirium. In that respect it nicely captures the kinetic energy of the bandʼs live shows, complete with Russellʼs arsenal of goofball moans, groans, a-haʼs, oh-noʼs, gurgling yawps and other forms of rhythmic breath-gymnastics. (If only it could capture his nimble dance moves!) Itʼs those interjections, along with the quick song transitions and spontaneous sounding vocal takes that kick Fog & Bling up a notch from its solid predecessor.
Among Fog & Blingʼs highlights are the jaunty “Iʼm Clean,” with its knowingly ludicrous similes (“Clean as a preacherʼs socks / Clean as the keys to the prisonʼs locks / Clean as a gin drink on the rocks”); the ultra-catchy “Hoods of Cars,” which celebrates the lazy times “we let slip slowly away / Following jewels in the tar, layinʼ on the hoods of cars,” noting how “It ainʼt ever in the movies, more taboo than boobies / Baby thatʼs how it feels”; and the rocking paean to friendships cemented via the crazy hardships shared by touring bands, “The Good Times and the Bad.” The surreal ups and downs of life on the road are perfectly captured by that songʼs final verses:
Stayed home in droves for a must-see band
Spent the night in a taco stand
At least it was warm
I could stretch my legs
Woke up next morning smelled like eggs
Roof of the van in the starlight
Still high from the show that night
Driving home something wasnʼt right
Flat tire, no spare.
And then thereʼs the irresistable “Got Sum,” with its jokingly jealous lamentations about how:
They all got money
They all got booty
They all got all that they want
The way they flaunt it
It just haunts me
There oughta be a law
…Everybody got sum, but I ainʼt got none!
The confessional, zeitgeist-summarizing “Crazy Lonely” is another type of lament altogether, with its incisive observations on the deep loneliness that undercuts our social media obsessed age:
I feel like a failure
most of the time
So many dreams
have died on the vine
When weʼre together
we just sit there and stare
At our phones glowing
and we ainʼt even there
For my money, though, the true standouts on this album full of shiny nuggets are the radically contrasting “Highway of Diamonds” — the one slow ballad on the album — and the giddy come-on of a closer, “Doing It With You.” Along with its sweetly high-lonesome chorus, the former features such beautifully evocative lyrics as
Laughed at and left out, sold into self-doubt
Wallflowers grow wild with time
Now nights filled with jewels, city glow & vines…
Highway of diamonds, hereʼs to the shy ones
Under the stars, like rivers we run
“Doing It,” on the other hand, finds Russell bouncing between crooning suggestively to his lady love and laughing at the faux sauvity of his insinuations:
Oooh-wee baby, whereʼd you find
that sense of humor
and that filthy mind?
Now letʼs get together,
you and me
I need a date — canʼt wait
Maybe 2 or 3
The song gets sillier as it goes, culminating in howlers like “I got no scruples / You can tell Iʼm in love / Take a look at my pupils.” Itʼs impossible to resist the “Iʼm high and I canʼt lie” vibe of the tuneʼs bouncing chorus:
If you wanna party, Iʼll party with ya
Ya wanna be tardy, Iʼll be tardy too
Ya wanna get drunk
Well Iʼll get drunk with ya
Stumblinʼ in the park after dark
Well, you know what to do
The live snippet the band tucks onto the albumʼs end — which sounds like a surreptitiously recorded excerpt from a particularly high-spirited band practice — plants a lampshade-style cap on the albumʼs carefree vibe. As the band bumps and grinds away disco-style, Russell comedically improvises the lyrics. “This is called ʼLoosen Up,ʼ” he laughs:
You gotta loosen up,
Loosen up, movinʼ up,
Booze it up, loosen up… Yea-ahh!
He continues riffing on the title a la Richard Simmons exhorting an aerobics classʼs attendees to keep their cardio rates up, until the band falls back into a slow crawl and Russell ad libs, “Laser wash… laser wash, itʼs a laser wash / Put the ky-bosh on your laser wash — itʼs all closed down!” Then as the band abruptly stops, Russell delivers the coup de grace with a deadpanned, deflationary quip: “Letʼs go get some tacos.” Itʼs a comedically perfect ending to this expertly loosey-goosey, joy inducing gem of an album.
Music, videos, merch and tour dates can be found at shinyribs.org .