A few weeks back while watching an episode of “Hung”, I noticed the credits said, “Music by Craig Wedren”. I turned to my girlfriend, giddy with excitement and announced, “He’s from Shudder to Think!” Having not heard any new Shudder material for over a decade, I turned up the TV to hear the music. Quickly my joy turned to disappointment. The twinkling synth music didn’t sound anything like the Shudder to Think I idolized as a teenager. Where was Craig’s falsetto voice and angular guitar riffs?
A week later, while scanning the list of latest releases, the adolescent fan boy in me returned, seeing that Shudder to Think had just released a live album. Despite not being a fan of live albums, I found myself visiting Insound and purchasing the albums on the spot. Four days later I was inserting the new Shudder album into my CD player, and this listen wouldn’t disappoint like my “Hung” experience (Speaking of “Hung” and disappointment, after a promising first half of a season, how badly did that show fall flat?).
The album starts with “Red House”, the perfect opener due to how the song spanned their career, first released on “Funeral at the Movies” and then a newer version was featured on their last album “50,000 B.C.” From there the band burns through songs off all of their albums; kind of like a best of album minus the pretension. I expected the band to sound old, that they may have lost their edge, but they’ve never sounded better. Their older tunes are revived with a refreshing zeal, and on the songs from “Pony Express Record” they sound like they recorded the classic album the day prior. Craig’s voice hasn’t lost its nasal, sassy edge, nor has their guitars lost their nasty growl.
As much as I was enjoying the album, hearing that they still have “it” in them made me even more annoyed with their soundtrack endeavors. Like Wedren, guitarist Nathan Larson also went the way of writing music for movies, none of which resembles the Shudder sound of old. I never understood why this art punk outfit put their guitars down to write soundtracks and theme songs for such projects as “Reno 911”, “The Woodsmen”, and “School of Rock”. A Wedren soundtrack is a lot like Michael Jordan playing baseball; sure, he can pull it off, but it just doesn’t compare when not utilizing his best assets. Unfortunately, their dabble in the cinema makes their album title “Funeral at the Movies” sadly ironic.
The album does have its issue. For one, the recording quality sounds a bit tinny, with every “S” sound stabbing into your ear drum. You’d think they would have taken a moment to possibly smooth over the audio before sending it out to the presses. There is also a little bit too much small talk between songs, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but hearing Wedren talk about how the audience should go vote for Obama seems a little dated.
Near the end of the show, Wedren expresses his surprise that so many people are still interested in his band saying, “This is, like, huge for us to see all of you. HUGE.” The show ends with a soothing send off, playing “Day Ditty” which features the lyrics:Can you help me sleep?
or go home
and maybe meet me another day
another day…another day…another day…..
Hopefully, the fan interest was “huge” enough for them that we are able to see Shudder to Think another day, this time with an album of new material.