Athens-based band Shameless James has released its debut EP, “Calico.” The group states it found its footing by elements of Southern rock, alternative rock, jam and psychedelia, according to its website. This album focuses on issues such as addiction, privilege and hopelessness through the lens of young 21st century men. It is a troubled story for a troubled year, and each track tells it in an honest, cathartic way.
The intro song of the album is a lively, almost punk jam with a psychedelic spice. The lyrics call for a desire to escape and to embrace the moment.
“Real life, take it and throw it away/Cracked and broke as far as I can see.”
It successfully captures the feeling of the year spiraling into chaos: that desire to forget about our troubles and live life like it was just fine. It’s a solid introduction to this thematic album.
If this song could be described in one word, it would be “frustration.” The guitar revs and rumbles like a motorcycle rumble, the riffs are edged with a piano and the drums keep to an even but agitated tempo. The lyrics tap into the stress many working people felt when the pandemic hit, as the singer laments over lost gigs and an uncertain future.
“The world is falling down to its foundations/Paranoia all across the nation/Me I’m stuck here and I’m waiting in my sorrow because I’m losing all my gigs/Ain’t got no plan past tomorrow.”
“Death of Me”
“Death of Me” feels like the perfect companion to “Crazy.” Whereas “Crazy” focused on the initial shock of the pandemic closures, “Death of Me” focuses on the monotonous and moneyless life that people have been stuck with. It’s a more consistent song that’s driven by a kind of chugging sound, mimicking the drudgery of life on standstill, only broken up by a feisty piano riff. It’s a fun song for a bad mood.
The band’s Southern rock influences really come through with this song. The guitar and vocals carry a distinct southern twang, perfect for the aggressively cavalier mood. This is a song that tackles wealth and privilege as the lyrics reflect the apathy and excess the rich are able to live with while everyone else struggles.
“I don’t mind just sittin’ around/With a Fat One and some hot shit raring/There ain’t a thing worth caring about when you’ve got it all and you’re just not sharing.”
This is my favorite song of this album. If the previous tracks were about trying to get through life this year, this track is about succumbing to hopelessness. The guitar is wailing, the drums are oppressive and the vocals are chillingly ghostly. It’s a psychedelic roller coaster ride spiraling downwards towards an unforgiving bottom. This is a song that lingers with you after it ends, and I find I keep getting called back to it.
“Pick Me Up”
The last track of the album, “Pick Me Up,” is probably the most subdued of the tracks. The piano, drums and vocals are at the forefront, all of which work to build a feeling of melancholy and listlessness. The EP’s story seems to end with a drifter, trying to regain hope, to find a place to stay and to be welcomed with companionship. It’s the perfect cool-down song to follow “Supernova,” and a fitting note to end an album about a difficult year.