In some circles Rick Shaffer is an unquestionable rock-n -roll highway man, a lifer living on the fringe, as a matter of choice, as much as necessity. Shaffer made his name with the Philadelphia band The Reds, one of the hardest rocking acts to come out of the 1980’s new wave scene.
His new album, Outside Of Time, has Shaffer reaching minimalist garage rock perfection, capturing excitement and emotion in a proto-punk sound, laid down savagely in Motor City Detroit. Outside Of Time bleeds blood on these tracks, in a soul, glitter, sin drill-press bamalama, that’s structured like classic Detroit Rock — simple, hard driving, and ultra high energy.
The opening two salvos, Killer Time and Going Down Slow, descend like sheets of metallic fuzz, with loud tight guitars worthy of some of the best guitar mangler’s. The solo in Killer Time is a payback to early Jimmy Page, while Going Down Slow throws a sonic punch to the bedrock guitar hero Link Wray. These tracks mantra like guitar licks, while Shaffer’s vocals are cut from the same Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison cloth, with lyrics reflecting the turbulence of today, to unify into an image defining epic.
Tracks Blowing My Mind, Changing Anything, and Final Surprise have a druggy party ambience, with layers of fuzzy guitars, reverb-soaked guitars, combined with a hypnotic bass throb. The song structure, production and vocals have a dirty, daring psychedelic tinged garage sound. While the lyrics dial in some cryptically styled banter for dead-on raw garage attitude.
The music recalls the early rock-n-roll simplicity in Shaffer’s earlier work. The track most exemplifying this is Your Charm, a cranked-up amplifier of updated Chuck Berry/Keith Richards, a bucketful of throaty Little Richard/John Lennon vocals, irresistible hooks, implicit danger, full-tilt boogie, giving you one of the most infectious sounds since Marc Bolan’s Electric Warrior.
Walls Of Heartache is a searing rocker like something you’d find on a Rolling Stones or Creedence Clearwater album — a three chords and cloud of dust rocker, with catchy vocals, guitar hooks and that pure rock-n-roll Shaffer loves. The song has everything you need, then still leaves you wanting more.
One By One has a poignant melody and melancholy undertow, and has a counterpart in the track Show Me, mysterious, haunting, bluesy, and atmospheric. Both tracks have a deep introspective emotion similar to some of the original work of Fleetwood Mac’s, Peter Green.
The album closer, Hellbound Trip, has a down and dirty blues rocker wall-of-sound with hard layers of slide guitar, and a driving John Lee Hooker boogie groove telling the tale of finding yourself in the clutches of a Hoodoo Girl. It is positively scorching dark evil blues, and Shaffer serves notice he can tear off a ferocious solo with the best of them.
Shaffer has been quietly earning his reputation as one of America’s unsung rocker’s for decades, and on this album he has summed up what he’s learned. Outside Of Time is Rick Shaffer’s most consistent, varied, and inventive album yet, proving passion and creativity are timeless.
∎ Eddie Shelton — Witness To The Confession