Minneapolis’s The Blind Shake have a band name that aptly describes the reaction that comes from listening to their music. The spastic, rumbling, anxious noise punk that Dave Roper and brothers Mike and Jim Blaha produce on “Seriousness” is a serious feat of frenetic, nervous energy. The 13 sharp-edged, guitar-heavy tracks that comprise the album barely cover 30 minutes, feeling like a smack in the face without any sort of explanation. Sure, it stings a little, but you’re left wondering where that hand came from.
Jim Blaha’s sort-of “Misirlou”-y, very punk guitar riff dominates opening track and lead single “Hurracan”, while brother Mike’s baritone guitar scrapes along the bottom and Roper’s aggressive, thrashing beat keeps things consistent. The semi-nonsense lyrics feel tossed off, but it’s hard to notice a single word in the middle of the punky hurricane. The high-pitched guitar on “Man Leaves House” (when combined with the lo-fi, bassy rumble and danceable rhythm) is vaguely reminiscent of DFA 1979, while even the acoustic-based “Hand Me Down” hums with dark energy.
The trembling “No Rags” might be the best track on the record. The song opens on another crackling structure, a James Bond-theme baritone guitar rumble with shout-along vocals. But the real difference is the band’s ability to shift between danceable rhythms and pure, improvised chaos. Just when the memorable verse and chorus run their course, the guitars start squealing and the rhythm crumbles into a mess of jagged rocks, ready to be assembled again.
The band doesn’t lose steam musically but rather thematically. The short bursts begin to blur together, one track difficult to discern from another. However, the base line that “Seriousness” hits is high enough that this isn’t a fatal flaw. The Blind Shake is very much in the punk vein, challenging the listener to like what they’re doing but at the same time diving into the noisy end of the pool.