The Cinch - Shake If You Got It (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Cinch

Shake If You Got It (2004)


There's a restrained energy to Shake If You Got It that's just fascinating. The band resorts to slower tempos more often than not, keeping the punk rock speed latched down and channelling that energy into a hauntingly moody drone. Of course that description should call to mind Joy Division, and that's certainly a factor here, not to mention the Voidoids and the Modern Lovers. If you want to draw analogies between today's Pacific Northwest new wave movement and the late 70's New York scene, then the Cinch are Television.

Influences alone don't make a great band, and it's the dual vocals of Jennifer Smyth and Kathy Dubé that truly set the Vancouver five-piece apart. Smyth's in possession of a "proto-punk ice queen drone" that the band's press so aptly describes, a rumbling Velvet Underground monotone in a lower-than-expected octave. This smartly plays off of Dubé's saccharine harmonies and Breeders-style quirks. The album-opening duo of "Get Up & Get Out" and "Forwards & Backwards" bring all these qualities into focus. The urgent yet subdued instrumentals, layered vocals, and three-guitar wall mesh wonderfully over the album's ten tracks, with standouts like the infectious (but brief) "I Feel Strange" and "Have A Ball." Guitarist Mark Epp contributes a distorted, near-spoken chorus to the rumbling, bass-driven "Mystery Train," a welcome addition to an already unique interplay of sounds and voices. The band's subtle, dense arrangement works surprisingly well in the laid back, almost shoegaze track "Losin' Your Head." It may take a few listens uncover them, but there are some sharp pop hooks buried just under the surface here.

Shake If You Got It finds the Cinch still deeply rooted in the 70's, but not limited by it. There's a real sense of progression here, a tightness that can only come from a remarkably well-integrated group of players. "Killer Fog" concludes the record with a dramatic crescendo, something completely unexpected after so much low-key fuzz, but a moment that speaks volumes about the Cinch: this is an unassuming band, but just when you think you've got them figured out they both surprise and delight.