Ravi Shavi Bring Their Fun Update on Retro Rock and Soul to South Williamsburg
“You guys must love Radio Birdman,” the e-zine publisher and future blogger grinned.
“Huh? Who’s Radio Birdman?” the Disclaimers‘ frontman and guitarist Dylan Keeler responded, perplexed.
This was back in 2001 or so. The Disclaimers – esteemed in New York but criminally unknown outside of town – had just wrapped up their ferociously tuneful set at the now long-gone C-Note on the Lower East Side with a menacingly stomping, chromatically-fueled garage-punk hit. Which was a dead ringer for the Australian band…except that nobody in the Disclaimers had ever heard of Radio Birdman.
The punchline here is that you have to be careful attributing influences to bands or musicians. The wheel gets reinvented sometimes. So it’s probably fair to say that while Rhode Island band Ravi Shavi are often a dead ringer for sardonic 90s cult favorites Railroad Jerk, it’s also possible that they never heard of that group. What they share with them is a love for retro rock and soul sounds and a trash-talking sense of humor. Where Railroad Jerk blended atonal indie-ness into their 60s-influenced mashup, Ravi Shavi infuse theirs with lots and lots of reverb and more of a punk edge. Clear Plastic Masks are a good comparison – and a more likely influence. But you never know. Ravi Shavi have a gig at Don Pedro’s at 8:30ish on August 29 and a debut album streaming at Bandcamp.
Frontman Rafay Rashid works a sly come-on vibe on the opening track, the vampy two-chord Indecisions. Bloody Opus is a punk rock vignette with a Modern Lovers reference at the end. Guitarist Nick Politelli makes playful soul/garage/funk out of lots of ornate 7th chords on Hobbies, with a little Chuck Berry thrown in as well. Accidental takes liberties with a familiar Motown-style tune – the band rips the dance out of it and does it as four-on-the-floor rock with a little punk snottiness.
“I need a place to crash tonight, I need a place to be,” Rashid implores in Local News. Amphetamine – an original, not the Steve Wynn classic – has a Stonesy growl pushed along by bassist Bryan Fieldin and drummer Andrew Wilmarth – when the chorus kicks in, twin reverb guitars going full tilt, it’s pure sonic redemption.
Old Man rips off Dylan’s Just Like a Woman – which might be deliberate, and a joke. Problems – no, not a Sex Pistols cover – is the album’s best track, a shuffling, chord-chopping latin soul number: “Yeah, you had a lotta problems at home,” is the mantra. But there’s a happy ending. Critters has a strutting, practically disco groove: “Who’ll shoot the ones that love you?” is the operative question. ??? The album winds up with the redundantly titled Vacation Holiday – which may also be a joke, alternating between an anxious soul pulse and meat-and-potatoes bar-band rock. This isn’t heavy music, but it’s a lot of fun.