2006, sadly, was the year in which one of New York City's most legendary rock venues, CBGB, closed down, but on a happier note, it was also the year in which the Shirts -- one of the many bands that made an important contribution to the CBGB scene (and other Manhattan clubs as well) in the late '70s and early '80s -- provided their comeback album, Only the Dead Know Brooklyn. The Shirts aren't as well known as some of the Big Apple bands that played at CBGB during the club's golden era, such as Blondie, the Ramones, the Talking Heads and Television. But serious new wave connoisseurs know about the Shirts, and those who fit that description will find this 2006 release (their first album of new material since 1980s Inner Sleeve) to be an inspired comeback. Singer Annie Golden, unfortunately, is not part of the lineup; however, guitarist/singer Ronnie Ardito, drummer John "Zeeek" Criscione, keyboardist Johnny Piccolo and guitarist Art La Monica (all members of the Shirts back in the '70s) are on board and are joined by more recent arrivals Caren Messing (vocals) and Kathy McCloskey (keyboards, vocals). Is Golden missed? Yes, but her absence is not fatal, and much of that old Shirts enthusiasm is alive and well on infectious, melodic offerings such as "Walk on the Wire," "Hell or High Water," "Take Hold of My Heart" and the Latin-tinged opener "Spanish Steps." Only the Dead Know Brooklyn isn't quite as essential as the Shirts' best late-'70s/early-'80s recordings with Golden, but even so, they have managed to deliver a meaningful, worthwhile album without her -- and longtime Shirts fans will be glad to see them recording once again.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson