22-20s

Shake/Shiver/Moan

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Four years after calling it quits, U.K. foursome the 22-20s are back in business, and their belated second album, Shake/Shiver/Moan, makes clear the group used their time off to give their musical approach a bit of an overhaul. The blues influences that were a major part of the 22-20s' first album have retreated into the background, while their stylistic similarities to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have become stronger (mostly in terms of their guitar attack) and they've added some sunnier elements and bigger dynamics that favor the hookier side of Brit-pop (the album's shortest and hookiest track, "Ocean," recalls the La's in its ringing guitars and impassioned vocal harmonies, not something you'd expect from a band who took their name from a Skip James tune, while "Let It Go" and "96 to 4" follow a similar template). Not everyone who liked the 22-20s Mk. One will embrace the band's new lineup and approach (Charly Coombes is out of the band, though he contributes keyboards on one tune, and Dan Hare has come aboard as their new guitarist), but if they're a different sort of group in their second incarnation, they're not a worse one. Shake/Shiver/Moan is smart and tuneful, with strong melodies, well-mannered but heartfelt vocals from Martin Trimble, potent guitar work courtesy of Trimble and Hare, and an energy that splits the difference between a sweaty club and a big concert hall, feeling committed and precise at once. Doing raw, blues-inflected rock & roll was one of the hipper games in town when the 22-20s made their first splash, but that's not so much the case in 2010; if anything, what they're doing on Shake/Shiver/Moon will lower their cool factor, but this is the work of a more eclectic and accomplished recording outfit, and it suggests they have an interesting future ahead of them, which is more of a future than they had a year before this appeared.

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