Brian Shapiro Band Releases Follow-up LP


There’s a lot to like and admire about the Brian Shapiro Band’s second album It’s Amazing. One of the chief qualities is how indelible it is. You will not mistake this band or these songs for anyone else. Yes, there are certain echoes listeners may hear throughout the album’s ten tracks, but never for long, and none of them suggest the Philadelphia-based band are interested in paying tribute to or imitating anyone. Shapiro’s lyrical perspective certainly sets him far apart from many of his contemporaries and peers.


It’s informed by a confluence of factors. The key sources fueling Shapiro’s writing are his fascination with how our faltering if not outright failed efforts to process what’s happening to us in everyday life are often managed and sometimes without our knowledge.  The Los Angeles native has a wide-encompassing vision rather than one hidebound to observing genre conventions.

Few songs on It’s Amazing make that more apparent than its opener. “Ambitigeddon” is difficult to describe; its musical identity is one quarter “punk reggae”, another quarter alternative rock, guitar rock, and a strong dose of funk tossed in for good measure. Shapiro’s vocals can sometimes seem like they are careening all over the map, but there’s an obvious method to his madness. The theatrical framework surrounding many of these songs gives Shapiro a so far inexhaustible vehicle for pursuing his art.

“Am Now” is a song from someone who’s lived through a lot of hard times. It’s Shapiro’s most personal track, at least superficially, and he treats it accordingly with a more traditionally minded arrangement than we’re used to from the band. The theatrical flavor of his song remains the same, balanced from one cut to the next, but it never comes at the expense of taking the material seriously. Moreover, it gives it plenty of color. “More Memories” will rank as the album’s pinnacle moment for more than a few listeners and it will surprise many as well. It’s definitely an unexpected musical turn considering what precedes it, but the lyrical surprise is even greater.

“LALA” and “New Newz” may be a contentious pair. They don’t scale the same heights of originality we hear in the earlier songs, but they possess every bit as much of the same unbroken attitude filling those performances. They are interesting, whatever their flaws. “Take-N-Make” will have its supporters and detractors in equal measure. Wrestling with its tempo will be the biggest challenge for many listeners but, once the band sinks its hooks into you, it’s a rewarding experience. Behn Gillece’s vibraphone is an important musical thread running throughout It’s Amazing and its additions to the last song are pivotal.


You have to keep coming back to this album more than once before fully grasping its charms. It doesn’t pay off with garden variety guitar riffs or verse-chorus-verse predictability. Instead, the Brian Shapiro Band’s It’s Amazing gives listeners just enough of what they already know to settle them in for a ride through personal, imaginative, and even daring musical territory. The rewards are there for the taking. 

Samuel Pratt

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