Left to right: Joey Blackhurst, Cale Simanskey, Jack Douglas (bottom), Trever Bennett
Photo by Trever J. Bennett

Anyone who enjoys music—listening to it, playing it, writing it, dancing to it—should take the time to read the book This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin. Because Levitin is a neuroscientist, much of the language is somewhat technical but still, fortunately, totally understandable. He presents a very interesting idea about how various cultures regard their music and the making of it. According to Levitin, many cultures use a word that can be translated to mean either singing or dancing. The two go hand in hand because, he reasons, we quite often do both at the same time. He states that we are incorrect when we say we don’t sing or dance for most people are capable of doing either or both quite adequately. The misconception of Western civilization is that we have placed the joy of singing and dancing in the hands of professionals, who excel at their craft but do it as a job. If we can’t sing or dance as well as a professional, then we don’t do it. We are self-conscious so prefer not to do either if anyone is watching or listening. That, he argues, is unfortunate.

The enjoyment of music whether writing, playing, or listening, belongs to all of us and does not need to be perfect in order to be good. Or, as Thayrone X says, "I don’t care what it is as long as it makes my blood boil." A classic example would be practically anything by the Kinks. They were certainly not the smoothest band around, but tell me something that is better than "You Really Got Me." There are plenty of pieces as good, but I can’t think of anything better.

Which brings us to The Shady Civilians. This is not the smoothest band in the world, either, but there are moments when it is pretty darn good. I read that the band intended to put out an EP of songs but delayed until enough cuts were produced to fill an entire CD. That is partly a problem for me because of a lack in continuity in how the songs are assembled. Some of the songs also sound too much alike as the band seems to like longer, slower bass intros to many of the pieces. I can forgive all of this (we can probably find mistakes in "Sgt. Pepper," too, if we look hard enough) because, after all, nobody ever claimed this was or had to be clean.

There are some instrumental sections of some songs that I really like. The opening cut, "Broken Cog," for instance, sounds like something that should be in a David Lynch movie, and I like David Lynch movies. It opens with a riff that makes me feel I should be strapping in for a ride with Mr. Eddy. They also mix singing styles, often employing rap-like lyrics which, while I am not a rap fan, work in these cases and are interesting in delivery and content. There are a dozen tracks on this CD and, even with some repetition, there is bound to be something for everyone here.

Members of The Shady Civilians include Joey Blackhurst on guitar, Jack Douglas on bass, Cale Simanskey on drums, and Trever Bennett on vocals. The group was the Galaxy Entertainment Center Battle of the Bands winner and does show a great deal of potential. Perhaps rearranging the order of the songs on the CD would give me the variety that I sense is lacking in the cuts. Again, I say it is just a sense because, really, it is not that important. What is important, though, is that The Shady Civilians made the CD and put it out there for all of us to enjoy. And enjoy it I will because, if my brain has to be on something, I want it to be on music. So tighten that seatbelt and shift into drive. After all, it's not the destination but the trip that counts. 

© Peter Karoly, 2010