Tongue Twister

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After having recorded one of the finest albums of 1977 (Black Vinyl Shoes) on a four-track in the guitar player's living room, it's not surprising that when Shoes were signed to a major label, they would want to explore how the other half lived with the bigger and more bombastic production of Present Tense. Tongue Twister, however, found Shoes in more audibly sympathetic territory; though the album's crisp, well-detailed mix is significantly more hi-fi than the group's debut, producer Richard Dashut's approach is pleasingly lean and concise, with John Murphy and Jeff Murphy's harmonies and the efficiently hooky guitar lines of Gary Klebe and Jeff Murphy clear in the forefront at all times. In many ways, Tongue Twisters suggests what Black Vinyl Shoes might have sounded like with more time and money but a similar set of aesthetic choices; it also boasts a set of great pop songs (played with a few notches more energy than on their debut), including the spunky "Your Imagination," the plaintive yet lustful "Karen," the surprisingly hard-rocking "She Satisfies," and "Girls of Today," which amusingly covers territory the Who staked out on "Pictures of Lily." Oh, and no matter what it might sound like, there are no keyboards on Tongue Twisters, a brave creative choice for a pop band with an eye on the charts in 1981. If Tongue Twisters didn't break nearly as much ground as Shoes' debut, it's still a superb bit of guitar-driven pop, and one of the band's most purely enjoyable efforts.

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