Shoes were formed in the early 70s by longtime friends John Murphy and Gary Klebe in Zion, Illinois before the two even owned their first instruments. The duo would exchange letters and cartoons they drew of themselves taking the world by storm with their music. Then in 1974 the two bought guitars, a 4 track tape machine and a disc cutter to make their own records. The DIY spirit and home recordings would define the band’s early years as Shoes honed their skills as songwriters and musicians, seemingly for their own amusement. The group recorded in Murphy’s living room and pressed small batches of their records on their own “Black Vinyl Records” imprint, with just four copies of their debut being pressed (one for each band member.) Their breakthrough album Black Vinyl Shoes continued this approach, but this time, the songs were polished and ready for the masses. With tracks like “Tragedy” and “Fatal” the band demonstrate their lean sound with catchy hooks that exemplifies the power pop sounds of the times, but what set Shoes apart from their peers was their thin fuzzed out guitar tones and layered vocal melodies that created a sometimes haunting sound. With each member taking turns singing and sharing songwriting credits, the album has a McCartney/Lennon/Harrison feel to it in its shared cohesiveness. The album ended up being re-released by Sire Records and a deal with Elektra soon followed, leading to some less inspired work, but this album captured the group at their peak. Black Vinyl Shoes is fifteen tracks of pure homemade pop brilliance.
– Cole Kinnear
Recommended: A4 Tragedy, A6 Not Me, B1 Fatal
Tags: DIY / Amateur / Power Pop / Private Press