Shearwater – Fellow Travelers
Sub Pop Records
By Aino Vaino
Shearwater has a lot of good history behind them. Unfortunately, Fellow Travelers, released in November 2013 by Sub Pop Records, falls flat. The band is trying hard to sound like everyone else and ends up sounding like nothing original.
This is the idea. The songs on Fellow Travelers are meant as tributes to the bands Shearwater has toured with. The listener is left wishing they’d not bothered with Fellow Travelers and just listened to the bands Shearwater tried to pay tribute to (and maybe some of the influencers of those bands).
“You know who they remind me of?” I asked.
“Who?” said Fiona.
There was a tendency for Fiona the Frisky Cat to appear when there was something to feel sour about. She bathed in sour milk. I found it hard to handle. Some kind of balance was struck through our arrangement.
“That band from Almost Famous, that kind of good movie about better times.”
“No, they were Stillwater.”
“No, no, you are talking about the band in the movie? They were Stillwater.”
“I mean that Shearwater reminds me of Stillwater. Not the music. Not the Jimmy Fallon manager character. But the essence of the band.”
Now, Shearwater is new to me. But it was the indistinguishably of Fellow Travelers and the cheesy idea that did not sit well. From Austin, Texas, Shearwater has an impressive ensemble of talented musicians. Formed in 1999, this is hardly their first release. But turn on Fellow Travelers and you are hit by a series of clichés as bad or worse than the album’s mopey title. If you’re going to pay homage to your friends you might as well create something nice and new rather than ripping off their old songs.
To be fair, there are some good moments. Cheerleader starts out well with a hammering guitar riff. Mary is Mary is a nice ballad. Alas, it’s difficult to last through an entire song, especially when you know it’s meant as a kind of love-in with bands Shearwater has toured with. Aren’t those best for private settings? Are Shearwater obnoxious guys to tour with and they are trying to make up for it? I’m just asking…
“This is manufactured rock,” said Fiona. “It’s meant as a gimmick and it’s impressive they were able to put it out.”
“Yes, that’s what it is. Impressive they put it out. Turn it off. I don’t dislike it. But I do.”
“Let’s listen to Iggy Pop,” Fiona said.
“Yeah, let’s listen to Iggy fucking Pop.” – (2/10)
Shearwater is expected to put out a new full-length album of their own music in 2014.