I Blame You

Michael Shelley

Bar/None Records, 2001


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Alternative rock is not the commercial slop we're forced to listen to on certain radio stations day in and day out, nor is it a style of music with a label slapped on it by a music conglomerate. Alternative rock is a style all its own, gleefully creating its own noise and choosing whether or not to give the finger to traditional musical mores.

I know. I was in "college radio" at the start of the '90s, when "alternative" began to become the buzzword of the industry. And it's been a while since I heard a truly "alternative" album... that is, until I popped my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 I Blame You by Michael Shelley into the CD player. Shelley's "do it yourself" attitude (recording most of the disc in his New York apartment) has a freshness about it that is sorely lacking in so many commercial "alternative" albums. Blasting through 12 songs in about 35 minutes, Shelley shames some of the pretenders to the throne.

Of course, Shelley has some natural advantages on his side - not the least of which is a rhythm section which includes Dennis Diken from The Smithereens. First and foremost, Shelley has a twisted sense of humor - not necessarily a must in the field of alternative music, but something which sure is helpful in the songwriting department. "Let's Fall In Hate" is a prime example of this skewed view of the world, finding a different way for a couple to work out their differences. Likewise, "Dear Mr. Webster" is a keeper on this disc, as our hero pens a letter to the "author" of the dictionary, chiding him for forgetting to include a word which describes the girl he pines for.

There is not a moment on I Blame You which sags from any kind of weakness. Even the light kick towards country ("Don't Fence Me Out"), the brief instrumental break ("Rollo") and the songs about young love ("Mix Tape") only serve to build up this disc's strengths. Shelley truly is a breath of fresh air, and these songs are like oxygen which fuels Shelley's creative fire.

I Blame You is the kind of disc which is almost guaranteed to become an underground success - but in keeping with the spirit of alternative music, wouldn't it be something if the people who flip for this disc shared the experience with their friends, and got them into Shelley and his music? Consider this my small part in the process; I Blame You is an album that you have to experience. Here's hoping Shelley becomes a bonafide star; he deserves it.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Bar/None Records, and is used for informational purposes only.