Though all three members of Shoes are gifted power pop songwriters, the production on their albums has always been a little too slick, burying some potential classics under too thick a layer of gloss. As a result, the 1995 live album Fret Buzz is absolutely essential not only to Shoes fans, but to those on the fence about the Zion, IL, homeboys. The album title, taken from a particular type of guitar feedback, is appropriate: for all the polish and control of Shoes' studio albums, these are surprisingly rough-edged performances. We're not talking Metallic K.O. or anything like that, but it's surprising and refreshing to hear the occasional bum note or slightly off-harmony vocals. Split roughly equally between the three singer/songwriters, the 12 songs cover all phases of their by this point two-decade career, largely foregoing hits like "Tomorrow Night" in favor of less well-known album tracks. The stripped-down sound really benefits the songs, and had Shoes not chosen to follow Fret Buzz with the most extended layoff of their career, it would have been interesting to see how the boys followed it up.
Fret Buzz Review
by Stewart Mason