A Whole Lotta Kids in the Hall

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Shadowy Men: Imprint (September 28, 1990)
The University of Waterloo Student Newspaper

3 Notes

By Sandy Arwal

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet - Savvy Show Stoppers, Cargo Records

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet are just now on the verge of becoming really humungous. Their cool name, cool videos, and extremely cool instrumental sound are gradually shedding their "alternative" label and are no permeating the musical spheres of Canadians everywhere.

The three piece band has been around since 1984, and "Instrumental since 1985" (their motto), however Savvy Show Stoppers is their first album - a compilation of four EPs released since their formation (and two that were given away here and there). According to the band, almost all six of the EPs made the top ten on Canada's major college radio stations, and it's more than likely that this compilation will be the thing that'll finally get them the attention they deserve.

The Shadowy Men's musical style is almost exclusively a fusion of different types of surf guitar sound made popular by bands like the Beach Boys and the Ventures and supposedly originated by Duane Eddy (who, being the musical ignoramus I am, I've never heard of). The reason it seems pretty hard to review an album by the is that they have no equals, there isn't any valid comparison you can make. Mixed in with the constant wave of guitar twangs are several TV shows, and films, from Get Smart to those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. The album is more than anything else, a helluva lot of ufn, from the "wow, that does sound like a chicken" track Run Chicken Run to the positively subterranean Zombie Compromise, to the sing-along Shadowy Countdown, and the final thirty seconds of tape his and some other weird shit. The album lends itself to continuous playing, and it strikes me as the perfect soundtrack to anybody's life, assuming you're doing nothing more than serious than looking for a pen. It's not bogged down with a social conscience, it's just shallow, vacuous, irrelevant, vapid, puerile and frivolous but I like it. Make no doubt about it, the band doesn't deviate much from track to track, so if you're looking for more, or can only stand so much, it's probably best to stay away. Not all mortals can understand the nature of shadows.

The band is Reid Diamond on bass, Donald Pyle on drums, and Brian Connelly on guitar. All three were in a band in 1979 called Crash Kills Five. They've been extensively reviewed and interviewed by lots of magazines, mostly by boneheads who can't seem to grasp the concept of an all instrumental pop band and continually use "shadowy" as an adjective. Diamond explains the advantage of strictly instrumental music over music with lyrics by sayin that "... the subject isn't the singer, the subject isn't his or her view. Instead the subject can be simply atmospheric, or the instruments, or even the person listening. There's nobody getting between you and the music."

The approach to the Shadowy Men is much the same as for a jazz artist. Nobody asks Miles Davis why he doesn't have a singer, because it's assumed that his trumpet takes the place of any lyrics, and thus it is for this Toronto trio. It may be too much to say that the Shadowy Men will start a revival of instrumental music, but with the rise of rap music, and the gradual bending of the medium of popular music, anything is possible.

The Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet have been keeping quite busy for the past five years. In addition to their EPs and their full-time jobs, they have also done the soundtracks for Comic Book Confidential and The Mysterious Moon Men of Canada (both of which won Genie awards) and pretty much the only watchable show on Canadian TV, The Kids in the Hall. (The last song on the album "Having an average weekend" is the theme song from The Kids in the Hall.

Buy this album. There are only a few bands out there that'll notice every single purchase, but these guys are one of them. They've given away free EPs, they've wrapped them in popcorn, they've opened for themselves, they've done just about everything a band can do to sell records, and it's time to give something back to the Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. Who knows, maybe they'll decide to release another album and include a song (which I've not heard) that has perhaps the greatest title ever thunk up: "Gypsies stole our brains (so we hired some spies to get them back for us)." Dare I dream?



 Trista Lycosky

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