Sick of a lack of progression and playing the same venues over and over, indie pop quartet Von Shakes upped and left Dublin for New York in 2011. Flash forward eighteen months and the band have just put the finishing touches to ‘Bohemia’, their sophomore release and first since their trip stateside. Clean, polished and full of radio friendly anthems, could this be the band’s ticket to the big time?
Whether it’s the effect of New York or not, from the outset it’s obvious these lads have aspirations to be an arena rock band, the new Kings of Leon, if you will. Speaking of Kings of Leon, their influence is plastered all over this album. Opening track Robinson Crusoe has the same big widescreen sound as KOL and vocally there are definitely similarities between Patrick Brazel’s delivery and that of Celeb Fallowill. While this doesn’t make for the most authentic sounding song, there’s still a lot to appreciate about it. The thumping bass line stands out for praise as does the off kilter guitar solo that plays out the song.
Talk and Crawl has the feel of a Razorlight b-side to it and it takes another brilliant solo to save this song from being instantly forgettable. My Side sees the band move towards more pop orientated overtones. With its huge hook and anthemic chorus this song was made for radio but it’s production is so glossy there’s no menace to the song at all.
Control and Bali II return to Kings Of Leon territory. Bali II is very similar to Ragoo. It’s a slow breezy number which builds towards a very impressive crescendo. The equally exciting Your Own Holiday follows, a short blast of pop-punk ; it’s one of only songs with a bit of oomph to it on the album. If only the band embraced this side of their repertoire more often.
The band returns to type on Pale, and Headaches. Both pure pop numbers, neither would sound out-of-place on a One Direction album; not something you want to hear on an indie album. The back-end of the album is more of the same. Sit, Wait and Pray, and Last Day On Earth are both decent songs but, more of the same. Slightly sappy ballad Away From Here closes out the album. It’s one of the better songs with Brazel’s vocal prowess really coming to the fore.
This is a promising but ultimately frustrating effort by Von Shakes. The band has the look, the hooks and the musical capacity but lack the expected impact from a band who describe themselves as having ‘a punk edge’. This really is the crux of the problem; there is absolutely no edge to ‘Bohemia’ at all. The album is crying out for something more visceral but unfortunately it never arrives.