The Shapes are yet another band to crawl from the wreckage of the Big Apple's millennial rock explosion. Their self-titled debut has all the right moves -- from punk-lite drumming to Strokes-esque downstrums. What it lacks is a sense of identity.
The album kicks off with "Bordeaux," a sprightly pop number with lockstep guitars and a disco-infused chorus. Vocalist/guitarist Tonia Samman sounds a little like Aimee Mann in her 'Til Tuesday days, which is to say, charmingly disaffected. Her singing, axe-slinging counterpart Mark Allen takes over on the second verse. His broad and breathy melodies would have been perfect in an '80s band such as Simple Minds. Here they're slightly over the top.
With its stabbing guitars and unrelenting bounce, "Overflow" sounds like any number of Strokes clones. Why do so many groups persist in repeating this formula? It's as if there were a home study course where graduates earn the right to wear vintage denim and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon.
"Tunnel Vision" is far more original. A chugging chord progression and Samman's soaring vocals make for truly driving pop-rock. Something tells me this is a great live number.
"Dreaming of an M16" features probing synth and fine performances from both singers. At its best, the song recalls L.A. punk vets X. Now there's a band that knows how to mix sweet and sour.
The tempo relaxes on "How It Goes," which features prickly riffs and a laidback bass line. Something about the track's saccharine chorus had me thinking of The Go-Gos. That's pretty rare.
"Birthday Song" is built on the same Lower East Side backbeat as is "Overflow." The cut is unabashedly peppy, if uninspired. It doesn't help that the guitars are out of tune.
Album closer "Monochrome" is the band's foray into gloom-rock. Likely inspired by such groups as the Cure and Siouxsie & the Banshees, the song is brimming with angst. "Have you lost your way?" Samman croons. She might as well be singing about her band, as The Shapes make altogether unconvincing Goths.
The group is at their strongest on the edgier cuts. If they dropped the nü-New York pose, The Shapes might end up with a whole album's worth of winners. As it stands, they've got a couple. Hear them at Club Metronome on Thursday, July 13, with Fire the Cannons, The Hero Cycle and Tell No One.