From The Desk Of Kristian Hoffman: Los Shakers (The Ersatz Was Never So Exquisite)

Kristian Hoffman and Lance Loud met in high school back in the early ’70s in Santa Barbara, Calif. After starring in PBS cinéma-vérité documentary An American Family, they formed the Mumps, moved to New York and shared Max’s and CBGB stages with all the legends of the punk/new-wave explosion of 1976: Television, the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie. Hoffman and Loud also had front-row seats for the Mercer Arts Center incubation of the New York Dolls, before that. In our book, that grants you unlimited license to open the floodgates. Fop (Kayo), Hoffman’s latest solo album, is an ornate masterpiece of baroque pop, well worth your attention. Hoffman will be guest editing all week. Read our new Q&A with him.

Hoffman: Since I am an elder coot and also have a radio show that celebrates the lite-psych foibles of the late ’60s, I am constantly trolling for new “oldie” sounds that usually serve to reinforce what I’ve already confessed to myself: I am enjoyably stuck in my era! The wonderful result of this is that I’m constantly reminded there are still so many exultant ephiphanous disc-coveries to make!

The fantastically fabulous Los Shakers from Uruaguay, transparently modeled on the Beatles template, are like having a parallel universe of Fab Fourdom to treasure as an equally exhilarating treasure trove of Liverpudlian-derived but wildly original (and almost always danceable!) sonic gemstones. Their experiments with the Beatles’ mystical, almost-spiritual relationship with the seventh chord happily far outshine my own tremulous tip-toes into that arena (“Just Look, Don’t Touch” by the Mumps on How I Saved The World and “He Means Well” on Earthquake Weather).

Their first album has no less than three deconstructivist re-imaginings of “I Saw Her Standing There,” yet each one is Shaker-specific and uniquely delightful. The most familiar is “Break It All”: “When the music starts, don’t stand there like a fool!” When you hear this song, you won’t be able to stand there. Every song on the first LP just makes you want to get out on the Hullaballo dance floor, and the dances are even suggested after each song, although curiously limited to either “Shake” or “Slow Shake.” You’ll be shaking for sure if you hear this great LP. You’ll be able to hear specific echoes of the Searchers’ “He’s Got No Love,” the Hollies making harmony pop of “Memphis,” the Zombies’ soul shout on “I Love You,” the Monkees’ “The Kind Of Girl I Could Love”—all with Beatlesque hand claps, guitar hooks and backing vocals. There are transparent rips of “I Should Have Known Better,” “Hold Me Tight,” “Things We Said Today” and scads of other Beatle tunes, but Los Shakers add more minor, descending chords, peculiar key changes and an exuberance that is their very own. “Don’t Ask Me Love” in particular has no specific Beatle reference, but it stands as one of the greatest “With The Beatles But Without The Beatles” songs ever. What is Spanish for Fab?

Los Shakers’ self-titled debut takes you from Meet The Beatles through A Hard Day’s Night, and their second, Shakers For You, riffs on Help through Rubber Soul—less dance party and more maracas/tambourine, acoustic sounds with scintillating melodies and what becomes a fetching penchant for humorous overdubs. Of course, it has great inspired lifts from the “Ticket To Ride” riff, but it depends less slavishly on specific Beatle blueprints and adds inventive drumming, snatches of the Beach Boys, more Searchers and a burgeoning sense of Los Shakers’ own Latin-American identity. The forward-looking, dreamy “I Hope You’ll Like It” points toward “a Revolver/Byrds “5D” amalgam. “No Molestar” is an incredibly rocking take on “I’m Down.” As with the first CD reissue, it’s admirable that there are so many bonus tracks, but they are more formative and academic than rewarding. Los Shakers’ covers of ’60’s hits, including many by the Beatles, uniformly pale beside their own dazzling, foot-stomping originals.

It’s tempting to call Los Shakers’ third LP, La Conferencia Secreta Del Toto’s Bar, their Sgt Pepper, but in reality, it’s more peculiar than that (more a cross between Love and Big Star), and their own bossa-nova voice becomes more delightfully prominent. That said, it is Los Shakers at their most pleasingly psychedelic and experimental. “B.B.B. Band” starts out with bagpipe, organ and Association-styled “ba ba ba ba”s and gets to a great raga chorus with a brazen “If I Needed Someone” counter melody suddenly sung over the second verse. “Mas Largo Que El Ciruela” goes from a melody based equally on Bacharach and “My Girl” with snatches of “Heroes And Villains” concertina to a salute to what I think is “Red Wine,” and suddenly the backward high-hat and strings start, complete with a “Day In The Life” bridge, making the unfortunate blaring intrusion of horns forgivable. Just fantastic. So full of invention and playfulness.

Until fairly recently, Los Shakers’ digital presence was limited to one out-of-print compilation, and hearing their amazing canon was limited to obsessive vinyl collectors like me. Even then, much of it was only legend. Now it’s all available on CD and just amazing! Shake with Los Shakers, and you’ll never regret it!

Videos after the jump.

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