When the rolls of power-pop royalty are read, before one can go back to early-˜70s ur-power-pop bands like Big Star and Badfinger, you have to hail the genre’s late-˜70s/early-˜80s heyday. Among the handful of acts whose names are invariably invoked in that context”Cheap Trick, Dwight Twilley, The Knack, The Rubinoos, etc.”Shoes are always near the top of the list. The Zion, IL band is considered by the cognoscenti to be one of the quintessential bands to combine melodic pop hooks with urgent rock & roll momentum. Their discography boasts stone-cold classic albums like Black Vinyl Shoes (1977), Present Tense (1979), and Tongue Twister (1980), and most of the rest rate just a step behind them. But Shoes released only one new album in the ˜90s, 1994’s Propeller, and haven’t really been heard from since, until now.
Ignition, the first record to feature new Shoes material in 18 years, will be unleashed on August 14. It features all three original Shoes: Gary Klebe and brothers Jeff and John Murphy, all of whom have always made equal singing/songwriting contributions to the band’s albums. In fact, a key aspect of the group’s sound is the way the members’ individual styles blend together to create a true collective identity. Jeff Murphy says it comes from the fact that Klebe and the Murphys all learned their instruments between ˜73 and ˜74 specifically to start Shoes. That’s part of why we communicate so well with each other, Jeff explains, adding the striking admission, We still don’t know anything about music. We can’t read music, we don’t know what proper chord structure is, or scales, or any of that. But we learned together, so we’re all in the same skill level. We speak the same language.”
We could swear that Justin Vernon says something about shoes in at least one Bon Iver song. Honestly, we’re still trying to figure out which words he’s singing. Either way, the man behind the pseudonym has teamed up with Los Angeles shoe company Keep to produce a custom line of “Bon Iver” shoes that follow the style of the company’s preexisting Ramos line. The salmon-colored canvas shoes feature a herringbone design and a black fishbone image on the toe.
This is the second time the company has teamed up with an indie artist to create limited edition sneakers. They released a line of products designed by members of Animal Collective in 2010, the proceeds from which benefitted the Socorro Island Conservation Fund to protect the marina biosphere off the California coast. Though Keep’s press release states that both the company and Vernon “support Best Friends Animal Society,” it is unclear whether the same donation method will apply to the sales of Bon Iver’s shoe as well.
The sneakers are manufactured in a humane process that is supposedly “cruelty-free” towards animals. If only it were as considerate of our eyes. The shoes will be available for pre-order at the Keep website until Sunday, July 1, and will arrive in stores October 2012.