The Luxury of Time
competent young band like Shelby has to realize how important the notion of place is when constructing an album. The Luxury of Time has competency in spades but a totally amorphous personality that stems from the album’s inability to find a comfortable setting. Lead singer, guitarist, percussionist, and general do-it-all Kenny Cummings (he lets Phil Schuster play bass) tries to touch on the same vein of rock revivalism—late model semi-Galaxie 500 rock—that’s created an entrance for plenty of decent bands but he ends up getting semi-lost to this half-way destination.
Luxury is split by Shelby’s dual pull towards hushed, small venue rock and a disconcerting and an unsuccessful sweet tooth for “cavernous” and “soaring” bombast. Far be it for me to guide a band working on their second album (and I’m far less an expert than Cummings, a former sound engineer for Blonde Redhead), but when songs like “The Riviera” dawdle with flexed, tight bass lines so well in a “small-ball” context, why even try the overboard Joshua Tree antics of “Modify Myself?”
Cumming’s lyrics, “I close my eyes again / My retina / Burned with the outline of your skin,” work better when he twists them in a foggy, half-robotic inflection. When he reaches for that grand old Bono brass ring he just sounds like Fall Out Boy. On their website the duo duplicitously claim almost none of their lyrics are about “love.” First and foremost that’s an exceptionally pretentious thing to announce, but more importantly it’s no excuse for image-less and unproductive pleas dressed up as choruses.
The arena rock fetish doesn’t get out of the band’s system until they’ve had a few nonsensical name drops (“Loudon Wainwright”) and used a perfectly good prog-rock jam (“Jet Blast [Shame]”) as a receptacle for more soul-searching, head-scratching lyrics. Just when Shelby seems to settle in alongside fine, elegant young bands like The Clientele, they go screeching off in a bid for wild post-punk fire like a less focused The Wilderness.
Shelby finds its balls in a last third of an album that finally makes use of the band’s penchant for contrasting windy, astral instrumental sections against Cummings and his pleading indie-groan. Schuster actually gets the rock in this portion of the album and proves to be a concise bassist, certainly undeserving of the distinct second-banana status handed to him elsewhere. “Let It Be Me” is a real mind-bender: a jangly, roots-acoustic slab of mica that comes out of nowhere. “Blue Becomes You” is Shelby sounding like they should: composed, unspectacular baroque-rock.
Obviously this is an earnest, subdued rock band, ready for Irving Plaza, cool and fragile to the core. So when they go off track, The Continental Airlines Arena stuff does a faster job of killing the vibes than a horde of My Bloody Valentine comparisons could. As painfully self-aware New Yorkers, Shelby has got to want to stay away from such bad directions, internally given or otherwise.
Reviewed by: Evan McGarvey
Reviewed on: 2005-08-15