Breathing the Flood
A first listen to the shiny new album from The Shake Ups, 'Breathing The Flood,' reveals a wellspring of sharply-written, well-played songs from a relatively new band coming into it's own. Yet the album's melodic immediacy and breezy charm belie a long history of artistic development and hard work. Patrick and Kathie O'Connor (husband and wife, as well as longtime musical collaborators since the mid 1990's) formed The Shake Ups in Indianapolis, in January of 2005. The band's debut album, 'A Twist Of Lemon,' was released the following year, and was met with an enthusiastic response from fans and critics alike. The band relocated to southern California in the spring of 2007, where Kathie and Patrick met bassist Albert Lu and keyboardist Eve Gross. The more frequent use of keyboards and harmony vocals began to color The Shake Ups sound in exciting new ways - like a grainy, old black-and-white television show suddenly being transformed into vivid, modern cinemascope. The Shake Ups tightened up their new sound through several months of live performances, and initiated recording at their own Mystery Riff Studios in May of 2008. The new album was christened 'Breathing The Flood' after the title of it's closing number; a tale of post-apocalyptic woe in which the scarred remains of humanity attempt to rebuild their civilization beneath the ocean. The visual theme of the record was based on an 18th century map of North America depicting California as an island, giving ominous weight to the idea of Cali breaking away from the mainland at any moment and sinking into the sea. The lyrical tone of 'Breathing The Flood' is also darker than it's predecessor, though the sunny hooks serve to disguise the occasional cloudiness of the subject matter. The opening track on the album, 'Can't Stop the Signal,' was written the day Patrick and Kathie arrived in southern California from the Midwest, and is quite literally the sound of starting over. Song titles like 'Slippery Slope' and 'Wishful Sinking' hint at the visual theme, while the mood of the album shifts from bouncy to aggressive to understated. But 'Breathing The Flood' never loses it's immediacy thanks to the band's penchant for solid indie-pop tracks like 'Sex Exchange Operation' and 'Out of Your Mind.' The epic one-two punch of 'Monster of the Week' and 'Seismic Waves' explores the theme of the record more literally - as close to a musical representation of an earthquake as you're likely to hear. Yet it is in the more meditative compositions that the band's sound-expansion is most evident, such as the near-symphonic 'Make Some Noise,' the soul-searching 'Modern Age,' and the somber, surrealistic title track. With the popularity of artists like The Shins, The New Pornographers, Arcade Fire, and The Apples In Stereo, the world-at-large appears more than ready for it's introduction to The Shake Ups. 'Breathing The Flood' is sure to please longtime fans of sun-kissed power-pop as well as indie-rock aficionados, and should serve to cement The Shake Ups as one of the best in a new wave of melodic rock and roll bands.