Akimbo - Jersey Shores

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"Technically speaking, this is Akimbo’s second album in as many years—I say ‘technically’ because Jersey Shores was actually recorded during the same Chris Owens-helmed recording sessions as 2007’s Navigating the Bronze, so the tough bit was already out of the way for these Seattle sluggers come 2008. Unlike most such two-albums-same-sessions pairings, however, this disc could hardly be a bigger departure from its predecessor. Now, I’m a Northeastern boy, and like most denizens of the mid-Atlantic, I’ve spent many a summer’s day on the sandy beaches of New Jersey. Those among us who have also spent time along Jersey’s noble coasts are aware that while said coasts make for a pleasant vacation spot, it’s not really the kind of place that makes you think, “WHOA TALK ABOUT PRIMO TERRITORY FOR A CONCEPT ALBUM.” So how does a thunderous-yet-party-friendly rock unit like Akimbo write a whole record about the mediocre sands of the Garden State? By abandoning all hardcore tendencies and working up a rifftastic, jammed-out stoner rock effort focusing on the famous shark attacks of 1916, apparently. Who knew?

As previously mentioned, Jersey Shores marks a pretty significant departure from the mainstream of Akimbo’s catalog. The band has expunged most of the frenzied punk acidity of their previous releases. Instead, Jersey Shores feels contemplative and almost jammed out over its six lengthy tracks—Akimbo meander their way from monster groove riff to monster groove riff with little of the explosive urgency that colored their past output. The intermittent ‘clean’ moments might lead some to saddle this album with the ‘post—‘ tag, but Jersey Shores bears more improvised and ‘live’ sense of pacing than the build-crescendo-subside constructions that most NeurIsis-type bands rely on, and that’s a good thing. If anything, this looser format allows Akimbo to rely less on Jon Weisnewski’s expressive but workmanlike bellow and gives them more room to make use of their very, very serious riffing ability and chops. Weisnewski and drummer Nat Damm have developed into an incredibly potent, booming rhythm section over their many years togther—Damm in particular is an absolute monster of Bonhamesque single-pedal skinsmanship—and their driving cadences allow Aaron Walters to strut his impressive stuff on extended instrumental workouts like “Matawan,” “Lester Stillwell” and the title track. This, much more than any previous Akimbo release, is a rock album (pronounced ‘rawk’), full of meaty power chords, guitar heroics, and striking dynamic shifts. Owens’ production, already impressive on Navigating the Bronze, is even more appropriate here—each instrument is gritty but comprehensible, and the effect is that of a perfectly-adjusted mixing board in an intimate club.

There’s no question that some significant chunk of Akimbo’s fanbase is going to reject this album outright, and if all you’re looking for here is amped-up, speedy rage, then you’re likely to be among them. But Jersey Shores shows a side of this band that we haven’t seen before, and honestly, they do the drawn-out fuzzy rock thing as well or better as they do the frantic ‘core thing—I prefer this disc to any prior Akimbo release. If you like gigantic drums, massive amps, long songs, heavin’ riffs, or yellin’ dudes, this album is worth your attention.


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