Shannon and the Clams - Gone by the Dawn (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Shannon and the Clams

Gone by the Dawn (2015)

Hardly art

When I was very young, shortly after my father had lost his job, my mother, to support our family, took up a job at the local Pathmark grocery store. The store started putting out a compilation cassette tape series simply called “Rock ‘N’ Roll.” My mom would bring home the newest volume of the set every week, but never mentioned that they were oldies. It was the late 80’s, but my parents chose to never let me know that the cassettes that I fell in love with were from the 50’s and 60’s. I came to love the Big Bopper, the Beach Boys, and many other oldies artists without realizing that they weren’t modern.

Fast forward almost 30 years, and Shannon and the Clams are churning out the sounds of the 50’s and 60’s like they never ended. There is almost no hint of modernity on this album whatsoever. Shannon and the Clam’s sound is an inspired blend of all of the great genres of the 50’s and 60’s. Doo-wop, girl groups, R&B, surf. Shannon and the Clams is a straight up retro free-for-all.

Gone by the Dawn is Shannon and the Clams’ fourth album, but really the only thing that’s changed for this trio over their four albums is how much cleaner and crisper the sound quality has become. Gone by the Dawn isn’t exactly brimming with sweetness and joy, though. This is the kind of music that the 50’s equivalent of emo kids would be listening to. (The Cry Babies, if you’re a John Waters fan.) Shannon Shaw croons her sad love songs with an earnestness that will leave even the most hardened punk listener with a tear in his eye.

That’s what makes Gone by the Dawn so successful. The band’s sound never feels like a gimmick because of that very earnestness. Shannon and the Clams clearly love the music they make, and don’t act for a moment like it’s silly to be singing these songs in 2015. Their commitment sells the album perfectly.

I only have one slight complaint about the album, which is that “Knock ‘Em Dead,” while a great song on its own, is an odd and abrupt stylistic shift. It is the one song on the album that sounds modern, with some very fuzzy punk guitars lurching over a short, rockabilly tune. As much as I love that kind of sound, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the album’s vibe.

Gone by the Dawn is a perfect slice of retro in the modern era. I work with seniors for my day job, and I think I will actually be recommending this album to my clients, as it’s virtually indistinguishable from the actual music of the 50’s and 60’s. When you get these songs stuck in your head, you’ll find yourself singing it and thinking to yourself “Is that a real oldies song, or is that a Shannon and the Clams song?” The best part is that you might not be able to answer that question immediately.