The Shanks are a Toronto rock band hellbent on reviving the glory of ’70s arena rock. This bold duo consists of Ian Donald Starkey and John David Brumell (stage names Pistolwhip von Shankenstein and Colonel Crankshaft, respectively), and they only need a bass guitar, drums and Ian’s filthy vocals to bring back the rock ‘n’ roll fever of past decades.
This may come as an unlikely eventuality, considering the heaps of unsuccessful classic rock revival bands. My go-to opinion in such cases is, “If you are playing vanilla rock ‘n’ roll, without interesting time signature changes, progression or a blues/jazz augmentation , nobody cares.” Music evolved for a reason, so unless you are a Queens of The Stone Age, or more recently In The Whale, don’t bother.
What I find interesting about The Shanks is their acknowledgement of rock’s stagnancy since the band’s inception. From the beginning, The Shanks have made their way by cutting half of the usual instruments out of the lineup, thereby letting would-be virtuoso try-hards have their own, separate manhood-measuring competitions. Really, the only thing that The Shanks need to carve their own path to (rock) stardom is the sheer size of their balls.
I came to this conclusion after watching their recently released (and curiously titled) “German Heavy Metal Girl” music video, as seen here:
It’s extremely well produced, full of subliminal synchronizations between the song lyrics and the actions on screen. There even is an implicit plot for the viewers to unravel, as the song was based off of a short story. I actually am of the opinion that the director, Scott Montgomery, should officially join the band. Scott has worked on all five of The Shanks’ music videos, and had a huge hand in creating their conceptual identity while turning the music video into something major record label-worthy.
For a band that was formed on a farm in Mono, Ontario, my first question was, “Where are they getting the money for a production of this level?” Then I opened The Shanks’ Bandcamp and it became abundantly clear where they were cutting costs: none of their albums sounded properly mastered.
It is here where I realized that The Shanks are multi-media entertainers, more specifically, not strictly musicians.
When I was a kid, one of my favourite TV programs was MuchMusic’s Video on Trial.
It was the only thing I watched on MuchMusic, because I held a deep disdain for 97% of what was passed off as music. For those unaware, the premise of the show was that five random comedians, musicians, and entertainment insiders were forced to watch five random music videos and provide their personal (dis)approval in the form of sardonic commentary.
This was a vicarious experience for the viewer, with a touch of comedic bias and flair. Regardless of whether the song was bad or the artist was controversial, if the music video was entertaining, it would get unanimously positive feedback.
This is where I feel The Shanks make their strongest claim to stardom, as seen in “German Heavy Metal Girl”. They are building rockstar class status as entertainers, as seen by their photos of success in Europe.
Sure you can argue that American culture is held on a pedestal in Europe, but the photo above is proof that: 1) The Shanks are true old school rockers, and 2) They clearly play killer, over-the-top theatrical shows.
It’s easy for one to play armchair Nostradamus in regards to the success of others. The true way one can objectively measure success is seeing whether you met the your goals when the project was started. Have The Shanks managed to resurrect interest for party-era rock & roll, with only a bass guitar and a drumset? The proof is in the photo above.
If you are interested in listening to more of The Shanks, don’t forget to check out their latest album, Surfing The Lexicon, released last year.
Check out The Shanks!
Author: Alex Slakva