by Donny Doane
Roughly 13 years ago I was record shopping at Northern Lights on University Avenue in St. Paul. Rifle Sport front man and then proprietor of Big Money Inc., Chris Johnson, was delivering an animated monologue that had something to do with “paying the bills.” The clerk just smirked and rolled his eyes. I quietly paid for The Jesus Lizard’s Head and Cows’ Cunning Stunts, then made my way home to enjoy these twisted masterpieces.
Download an mp3 of The Blind Shake’s song “Roosevelt.”
those days the black Big Money jacket and a ravenous taste for noisy, left-field
post-punk were de rigueur. The Jesus Lizard would arguably become the Zeppelin/Sabbath
of their era, while Cows would remain wonderfully unclassifiable until their
demise in 1997. Needless to say, things have since quieted down.
But fear not voracious volume vultures. Just as the tinnitus of the ’90s
is finally about to abate, along come The Blind Shake—a local threesome
comprised of guitarist/vocalists/brothers Jim and Mike Blaha and drummer David
Roper, who faithfully resurrect the blasphemous, neo-archaic guitar and drum
atrocities of AmRep’s heyday. With an emphasis on the explosive rather
than the melodic, it’s fair to wonder if any sibling rivalry between the
Bros. Blaha contributes to the particular violence of their attack.
“So,” I ask. “How’s the sibling thing working out for
“Great,” says Jim. “For the most part we read each others’
“If there’s an argument, it’s never taken home,” explains
“Well,” returns Mike, “I can truly say if his part is horrible
or not. Then I’ll soften the blow and say it’s just terrible.”
The Blind Shake make a welcome return to the old and venerable approach of blowing
doors down with pure volume. After first catching their live set last September
at the Turf Club, my head felt like a pumpkin looks a week or two after Halloween.
The Blind Shake have arrived just in the nick of time, during an era when the
bulk of modern “punk” is being proffered by punicellos who’ve
evidently mastered setting Turd Eye Blind vocals atop power chords.
So here they are, but where did they come from? Well, I hooked up with the chaps
at my favorite neighborhood dump to find out. After settling in with a round
of beers and setting the levels on my state-of-the-art recording device, the
gentlemen filled me in on a little history.
“We’re originally from St. Paul’s East Side [Rockin’,
that is] until we were 10,” begins Jim. “Then we moved down to Lake
City and that’s where we met Dave. Then we went to college and that didn’t
work out, so we all came here.”
“Well, it worked out. It just wasn’t what we wanted to do,”
“Right. So where’d y’all go?” I ask.
“UMD,” explains Dave.
“U of M,” shares Jim.
“I went to Mount Senario in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, which has since shut
down,” adds Mike.
“Yeah, so his degree means nothing,” finishes Jim.
Being a musician around here often entails the tedious rattling off of one’s
musical pedigree as well as that of your band mates. More often than not most
people will still be like, “Who?” From now on, if you’re asked
who you’re currently playing with, just tell ’em Keith Richards.
“Oh yeah,” they’ll say. “Isn’t he that guy from
the Rolling Stones?”
Conveniently enough for The Blind Shake though, they have an effortless technique
they can employ in order to forgo whipping out their high school transcripts
to prove they’re for real.
“That’s the thing,” explains Jim. “We’re not ex-members
of this band or that band. It’s just Jim, Mike and Dave. You know what
Together now for what they inform me is “about four years,” they
started out simply as two brothers and their best mate.
“We were all best friends long before The Blind Shake was a glimmer in
anyone’s eye,” adds Dave.
“I didn’t even want to play music,” Jim shares. “He
[Mike] coerced me. He bought me a bass—the instrument nobody wants to
play, and that’s why we don’t have a bass player.”
Being in their later 20s, the guys were still in high school when Big Money
Inc. and AmRep were well past their thriving years.
“It’s funny when people bring up the AmRep thing, because we got
here after it was all done,” says Jim.
“It’s like when two different species of animals evolve into the
same kind of thing,” adds Dave. “There’s something about being
from here that makes bands like this. I mean, we’d be lying if we said
they weren’t an influence. Both my favorite bands are AmRep bands, but
I think we’d have turned out the way we are regardless.”
Currently, the guys are working on an album scheduled for a fall release on
Learning Curve records with the Terrarium’s Dave Gardner. Other than that,
fans will have to be satisfied with a three-song 7” recorded and mastered
by the aforementioned board-meister. Up until a couple weeks ago, their website
included three mp3s available for download that have since been pulled.
Kicking off the vinyl is “Old Lines, Sore Bones” where the Blaha’s
sound like two very young and raw Ian McKayes and Guy Piciottos screaming what
sounds like “latte” in the verse. Since the lyrics aren’t
available, I’m going to make the educated guess that these guys probably
aren’t mad at coffee and steamed milk. Next up is “Roosevelt,”
where the fast and furious guitars do a great impersonation of the discordant
chorus of car horns blaring in unison. It’s a sound that makes you realize
you may have been living in the countryside a bit too long. The highlight from
the mp3s is “Charcoal Now,” which all at once sounds like “The
Ants Go In, The Ants Go Out” set to Pat Benatar’s version of “You
Better Run” featuring ex-Cow Thor Eisentrager on guitar.
“Terrifique” from the now classic Cunning Stunts. You can’t
beat it for the diversity of its influences. And if it sounds a little far-fetched,
trust me, it’s all in there.
way these guys brutalize their guitar strings brings to mind ideograms of jujitsu
holds where the assailant’s arm is hyper extended to the point of tendons
snapping, while Roper buffets his kit as if settling a family feud. Despite
the ferocity of the music, the absence of bass guitar lends a certain glass
arm fragility which nicely offsets the full-bore thrust. And while their sound
is both vicious and visceral, the last thing The Blind Shake strike me as is
a bunch of aimlessly pissed off dudes.
“Were not an angry band,” admits Mike.
“That’s probably just a result of being forced to stay inside for
six months at a time,” adds Dave.
Yeah. That’d probably do it for anyone. ||
The Blind Shake perform on Fri. May 27 at Big V’s with Sightings,
Colony of Watts, Diamonds. 9 p.m. 21+. $6. 1567 University Ave., St. Paul. 651-645-8472.
Find out more about the Blind Shake on their official website,
on over to our mp3 page to download hundreds of songs, including The Blind
Shake’s song “Roosevelt.”