The Luxury of Time is one of the few CDs that arrived in my grubby little hands very early. As such, I had an inordinate amount of time in which to listen to the album, making the title of the album strangely fitting. (Was this done by the label on purpose?) It was also karmic irony as I don’t know how many times I’ve told people to give specific albums multiple listens in order to fully appreciate it (i.e. Interpol’s Antics). Shelby’s debut album played over and over, not only on my stereo, but also in my head long after the CD stopped playing. The New York band has moved on from the shoegazing walls of noise created in their early EP release, and espoused a hard rock alternative sound from the early 90’s that both suits them well and was bound for a revival.
The early to mid 90’s was an eclectic time for music. Grunge was the radio mainstay; Britpop was in its early stages; and `alternative’ was becoming the mainstream. Most of the songs on The Luxury of Time owe a lot to that time period. The first two songs, “The Golden Boy” and “Loudon Wainwright,” appeared on their early EP, called Songs:8. Those two, plus the third, “The Wait,” sound like they could be outtakes from Radiohead’s debut, Pablo Honey. But what was once made by five men is now made by two, Kenny Cummings and Phil Schuster. Phil plays bass and Kenny plays everything else and sings. They are helped along the way by a trio of drummers including Simone Pace from Blonde Redhead, but for the most part the band is a duo.
Other tracks on the album sound like a more `indie’ version of New Orleans band Better Than Ezra, which brings to mind the silly and `song lyric’ sounding phrase, “Is Shelby better than Better Than Ezra?” That in turn, if you don’t mind an aside, reminds me of one of my favorite repetitive phrases of those who don’t understand Spanish, “The La Brea Tar Pits.” Translated, the phrase reads, “The the Tar Tar Pits.” Ha! Anyway, Shelby has taken the melodic rock stylings of bands like BTE, Semisonic, and Dishwalla, added the British feel of Radiohead, the Cure, and Echo & the Bunnymen, and made it rock in a way we may have thought we had heard before, but never really have.
“Modify Myself” is one of those songs which blend everything nicely. It has the `strings’-sounding keyboard similar to mid to late 80’s cure, the gravelly voice of the early 90’s, and the driving guitars similar to Jonny Greenwood. “Marigolds” crunches into the speakers like Scott Weiland leading the aforementioned Oxford quintet. “Jet Blast (Shame)” aches and stretches like Radiohead’s later output. “Green Eyes” sounds like a late ’80s track from a band that is sitting there on the tip of my brain and I just can’t reach it. I can even picture myself listening to it on my clunky Walkman in the family van. Damn! Oh well.
Shelby’s debut record was, for me, not only a trip down memory lane, but also a fresh take on genres past. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with the album, which must have been the point of the publicists, proving that with The Luxury of Time, the album will grow on you, get underneath your skin, and become a brand new favorite.
Radiohead- Pablo Honey
Better than Ezra- Deluxe
Stone Temple Pilots- Purple