REVIEWS: No-Shadow Kick

Spatializing Sound in the Time Domain – Listeners are likely to decide by the very first song whether they love or hate Northampton’s No-Shadow Kick (according to the EP’s cover, now “The” No-Shadow Kick): the lead singer has an intense low nasal yowl, which works well with the mischievous lyrics and turbulent guitars. Those who enjoy the voices of Frank Black (Pixies) or Peter Garrett (Midnight Oil) will likely be charmed; others may find frontman Tom Pappalardo’s singing style a turn-off. At seven songs, one of which is crap (aptly named “It Doesn’t Matter (You Motherfucker)”), Spatializing Sound in the Time Domain is short, but with so few duds on the list, the overall effect is more one of pithiness than of brevity.
– Caleb Moon
The Valley Advocate, July, 2005

The Promo EP (2001)

Northampton, Massachusetts band No Shadow-Kick’s holiday six-song promotional EP is a short but diverse introduction to the band’s style. The opening track “In the Snow”, the only holiday song on the EP, is a holiday song for those unable to always muster up the expected amount of festive spirit. Its power and depth are highly complemented both by lead singer Tom Pappalardo’s deep and moody vocals and Elizabeth Street’s graceful backing voice on the choruses. The horns add to the subtle yet pervasive sadness buried among the lyrics. The EP’s other songs include two new and three old tunes, from the band’s 1999 LP, Basement Make-Out Party.

The second song, “Double Nothing”, billed as a “song probably about a girl”, rocks with the intensity of both loss and the recognition of growth. “Monks Don’t Tell Lies”, the second new track on the EP, is the band’s road song, complete with traffic sounds and Pappalardo’s appropriately preoccupied-sounding low-toned vocals. Herein, the road is transformed into a surprisingly spiritual locale, ripe with possibility, illustrating what the band calls the “Mike Watt metaphor of van-as-vessel”: “He reads my palm, proclaims me king, drops to his knees, averts his eyes, I stay calm, and say a joke, and he says to me: ‘monks don’t tell lies'”. Shawn Reynolds’s background vocals complete the harmony needed to transcend the everyday mundane experiences of life as represented by the road into a series of memorable and beautiful occurrences.

“The BMX Song”, from Basement Make-Out Party, is the rare instrumental that rocks, with a swoon-worthy beat that makes it incredibly hard for this listener to sit still. “Scarecrow Waltz” slows the pace down, expressed from the point of view of one who can “no longer discern life’s subtle shades”. Filled with touching, if a bit simplistic, lyrics, it takes a slow yet determined gait, while the music hypnotizes the listener into empathy with the melancholy tone of the track. The EP’s final song, “The Saviour Made Me Do It”, is a rocker complemented by powerful yet subdued guitars and is complete with the hilariously pathetic sounds of a televangelist’s pleas for more money for his ministry. Very sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek without losing authenticity or credibility, it is the most memorable track on the EP.

As an EP, this one fits together and works quite well. However, the lyrics could use a bit of punching up. Even so, these songs are beautiful seemingly without intending to be, the vocals are powerful and intense and the band can rock and elucidate without seeming either crass or that they are trying too hard. This is most definitely a band to watch-one that can combine indie rock sensibilities with the talent and wit needed to build a steady fan base and achieve sincere success. Pick up this EP, it’s worth it.

Miranda Hale, January 2002,

They had me at “hello.”

Their version of “hello,” anyway. I opened the envelope with No-Shadow Kick’s EP in it, and out fell a lovely, snowflake-covered holiday card with perfect script that read, “Happy God-Damned Winter.” Inside, they offer helpful instructions on how to classify their music: “Holiday, some sort of indy rock, and/or local, if we happen to live near you.”

I played the first song, “In The Snow,” three times straight. I really liked this morose ode to crap hanging in windows, dead trees with limbs hacked off and hung on the doors, and accident-causing black ice. This is the perfect song to play next year while you’re slamming Bacardi by the Yule log, waiting for Christmas to be over. I would pay an enormous amount of money to see NSYNC spring this one on their unsuspecting fans at their next holiday concert:

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night,
On 34th Street, it’s a wonderful life.
Thanks for the gift; it’s just right.
I’ll exchange it later for something I like.

For all their dark humor, No-Shadow Kick does take their music seriously. The word that kept popping up in my notes was “creative.” One track in particular, “Monks Don’t Tell Lies,” is an intriguing, groove-intensive, mind-expanding, surrealistic walk across a sonic desert, complete with trippy visions and paranoid vibes. I like the image of a priest doing a palm reading.

The bitter, dark “Scarecrow Waltz” also stood out for its hollowed-out vocal recording and lyrics such as:

My head is caving, my colors fading,
I can no longer discern life’s subtle shading….
You’re just the crow sitting on my shoulder, pecking at my eyes….

I especially like the way the vocal was recorded on this song. The microphone stays on during music solos, catching the singers breathing, swallowing, coughing. The mood is immediate and real.

No-Shadow Kick is a band that will try anything, using the studio as a musical playground. There’s a lovely trumpet solo on “In The Snow,” accompanied by a fake glockenspiel. (No, I don’t know either. I’m just reading the notes.) I strongly recommend this music, especially if you’ve been listening to the same kinds of artists for a while and need to sandblast the slate clean. If you like the promo CD, No-Shadow Kick also has the full-length Basement Make-Out Party CD available at their web site.

By Jennifer Layton,

No-Shadow Kick are an unsigned pop-rock band from Massachusetts. Surprisingly, given the general track record of unsigned pop-rock bands (whether they’re from Massachusetts or Fiji), No-Shadow Kick are quite good — their songs, especially the newer material, are intelligent, hummable and undeniably enjoyable. Their only problem, really, is anonymity; the Billboard charts notwithstanding, the world is full of pop-rock bands that play intelligent, hummable and undeniably enjoyable music, and our culture has scrunched them all into a massive, dense gestalt. The few acts that reach the top of the pile are often disappointed to find that their major-label deal results in an inept or nonexistent marketing push, public indifference and an eternity in one-hit-wonderland — which, in all fairness, is still far better than bands like No-Shadow Kick ever do. It’s not fair, but it’s the way the world works.

Which brings us to Promo EP. This holiday offering is apparently half new tracks, and half material culled from 1999’s Basement Make-Out Party. Although the odds are against you having heard (of) Basement Make-Out Party, the distinction is important, as the new songs blow the older ones out of the water. There’s nothing wrong with “BMX Song”, “Scarecrow Waltz” or “The Saviour Made Me Do It”, other than their busy, slightly dated, funk-derived sound and the general bulkiness of “Saviour”‘s central conceit, but the simplicity and clarity of the holiday-themed “In the Snow” beats them all. “In the Snow” is just plain gorgeous — a jangly, melodic, beautifully simple indie rock song with a hint of shoegazer fuzz. Guest vocalist Elizabeth Street adds a much-needed female contrast to the chorus, interacting wonderfully with the crystal-clear guitar melody; I hope the band can use her more in future. The surprises don’t end there, either; there’s a lovely horn and (I think) music box interlude that introduces the looped beat that guides the song to its finish. There’s more fun to come: “Double Nothing” is a more riff-intensive song, rich with indie-rock dischord and Britpop-style harmony. “Monks Don’t Tell Lies” debuts a stripped-down version of the band’s quirkier work, pairing chorused vocals and whining guitars with a canned beat, unleashing thunderous live drumming and processed vocals during its chorus. Like “In the Snow”, these songs work well because they’re not as busy as the other tunes — the production is clean, the variety high.

My advice to No-Shadow Kick: burn “In the Snow”, “Double Nothing” and “Monks Don’t Tell Lies” to a new CD and send that to labels. There’s enough variation and skill on display in that fourteen minutes to get you a deal — if that’s what you want.

– George Zahora, Splendid E-Zine

If you’re looking for music to chase away the winter blues (so what if it’s April) then No-Shadow Kick’s Promo EP may be just what you’re looking for to put a smile on your chapped lips. This trio of power poppers from Northampton, MA serves up smart, solid, and ever so sarcastic indie rock. The first three tracks are the latest from the band. They cash in on the winter motif with “In The Snow,” a poppy little tune full of one liners and word play aimed at the Yuletide. Sure it’s an easy target, but nonetheless the song will keep you chuckling and acquaint you with the band’s tongue-in-cheek nature. The second track, “Double Nothing,” is the highlight of these half dozen songs. A lovesick indie rock song, it’s full of contemplative angst over the oft-lost gamble that is love. The rhythm section keeps the track punching along on cruise control as guitar drifts through like a breeze. This track is perfect for that mix tape made especially for those long, post break-up drives to clear the head. The last of the new songs is “Monks Don’t Tell Lies,” a slightly dubbish ditty relating a moment of Zen clarity come upon during the chaos of a broken down tour van. The remainder of the promo EP is made up of tracks originally released on their debut full length Basement Make-Out Party. “BMX Song,” “Scarecrow Waltz,” and “The Saviour Made Me Do It” continue to exemplify No-Shadow Kick’s pension for bouncing from sound to sound. Stylistic A.D.D. aside, this EP helps to showcase No-Shadow Kick as a band that one hopes will continue to grow and continue to produce music that strikes a balance between talent and humour.

– John Lefler, Performer Mag April 2002

Strange stuff. We got zero info. so I’ll have to make it up as I go along. Let’s see…got a drummer, I hear bass and guitars and a guy and girl singing these rather bizarre songs. I’m gonna guess that maybe the recording is home grown. Not that it stinks or anything, it’s just the EQ and compression, etc. But the hell with all that. They’ve got an unusual way of turning a song and it’s loaded up with wacky percussive bits, swooshes, and echoey thangs. I’m loving the in-your-face vocal mix on “Monks Don’t Tell Lies” with its synth-guitar textures, drums panned left (except for that side stick) and trashy FX loop. Very creative, that. My fave of the bunch is “In The Snow.” It opens the CD and paints a lovely vignette of a winter’s day, lyrically. I also like “Scarecrow Waltz.”

– L.A. Wha?, Soundcheck Magazine

Well, it may be a little late now, but this is a six-song holiday EP from Northampton, Massachusetts’ No-Shadow Kick. Hence the “happy god-damned winter” greeting card that comes along with it and the opener, “In the Snow,” being a cutesy but melancholy holiday song with adorable supporting vocals from Elizabeth Street. “Double Nothing” rocks out a little more as a simple indie pop song about a girl, followed by the rather lethargic “Monks Don’t Tell Lies,” which is the band’s song about being on the road. Then we get three already released songs, from the band’s Basement Make-Out Party album. There is the groovy instrumental, “BMX Song,” as well as “Scarecrow Waltz,” a slow and mildly depressing number, and an edit/remix of “The Savior Made Me Do It,” a bass-driven rock number that stands out as one of the better songs offered. All together, the six songs provide a diverse introduction to a band that blends standard indie rock with hints of playfulness, melancholy and wit. (EF)

Alarm Press Oct 2003

Basement Makeout Party (1999)

AMG EXPERT REVIEW: No-Shadow Kick’s Basement Make-Out Party does a good job of showcasing the band’s chops, sense of humor, and musical influences, but none of these elements really jell into a cohesive album. Their stripped-down sound and the album’s slightly rough-around-the-edges production values are appealing, however, on tracks as varied as the quasi-emo of “Daft”; the jazzy, math rock-influenced “Sat Through Tues. in July”; and the pretty Beck- and Pavement-inflected “Scarecrow Waltz.”Quirky songs like the lounge singer parody “I’ll Love You in the End” add even more eclecticism to Basement Make-Out Party, but what the band really needs is more focus and consistency in their sound, not less. Still, No-Shadow Kick displays enough ideas and ability on this album to make their future efforts worth anticipating.

– Heather Phares, All-Music Guide

With a skewed version of blues and Funk, No-Shadow Kick reside somewhere between the realm of die-hard Classic Rock enthusiasts and tongue-deep-in-cheek Indie nutcases. Either way, their mixture of heavy guitar riffs, funky basslines, weird keyboard sounds and vocal wailing should keep many a music fan happy.

This is somewhat of a mixed bag, kind of like Haribo Star Mix; they are all good, just in different ways.

It’s difficult to review an album that is so seemingly random, but soon it becomes evident that the order of the day is predominantly funk. Although the feel of the songs changes they are all held together by a great rhythm section, throwing about influences ranging from Captain Beefheart to what is apparently the soundtrack to a low grade erotic movie (‘Three in the Afternoon’ being a prime example of this).

The range of sounds throughout the album is pretty varied but if you have a love of 70s funk, psych and low-fi indie, this may well be the band for you, I suppose I can hear echoes of Eels or Beck…..but that isn’t really any sort of guide as to what No-Shadow Kick sound like.

Overall it stands as a very confusing, yet enthralling listening experience, quite odd.

– Drew Millward, TASTY FANZINE

Northampton-based No-Shadow Kick has enticed me into their dirty cellar of a CD with Basement Make-Out Party. There are fourteen cuts (plus the now inevitable secret bonus track) here and most were recorded in various Valley basements (with three exceptions recorded in Valley bedrooms). Everything was then mastered at the Monkeyhouse by none other than local fave Zeke Fiddler. The resulting effect is a great raw and primitive sound quality that the listener can actually hear and distinguish.
The band consists of Shawn on drums, piano, digital clip remover (whatever that is), and percussion; Josh on guitar and vocals; and Tom on bass, vocals, and percussion. Why they list no last names is probably their own business and I will choose to leave their personal lives the mystery they want, because this disc stands on its own in every sense of the phrase. No-Shadow Kick blend a bunch of styles including ’60s Detroit blues, ’70s funk, a certain late ’80s indie spirit and throw out hellos to various performers including Sly Stone and a really funny (and perfectly done) nod to Tom Waits. The style is mellow, but even so gave me a bit of a Mission Of Burma feel now and then. The bass anchors the band here and Tom goes from intricate funk to simple punk with no trouble and regardless of what he’s playing is solid, forceful, and a powerhouse. The drums and guitar are minimalist, but still come in with great effect. The sparseness of the guitar defines the sound here in many ways. Vocals? Seedy is an apt description. Very low-key and fits well with the music. The groove seems all important with these guys and Basement Make-Out Party has more than enough groove to spare. I liked everything on the disc except the secret bonus track. Very annoying; long, and needless. Luckily it starts so long after the last track that it will be easily avoidable for anyone getting the disc.

– Duke Aaron, Il Duce, VMAG, FEB 2000

Basement Make-out Party has an experimental feel about it. The impression is that No Shadow Kick is a young band exploring sounds, moods, styling and recording techniques (“recorded mostly in basements”). Throughout the CD it seems the bassist carries the songs with a perpetual groove while the drums, percussion, piano and guitar often create the eclectic, oddity of Haverhill MA’s No Shadow Kick. Not without humor, I’ll Love You in the End, is a great send up of the lounge piano singer. The potential is there. Unfortunately, the recording is weak and suffers from poor production.

– Nick Casino, Musician’s Trade Journal
issue #3, March 2000

This is the kind of record that you would assume was made after smoking about a trash bag full of dope. That may be why I couldn’t grab all the subtle nuances here, and probably why the purpose of this album was lost on me. The band brings new meaning to the word sparse, with loose musical arrangements comprising most of the album, and trippy vocals interjected from time to time. There are moments of clarity, and some nice bass work strewn throughout, but often little to tie it together.

At the beginning, we get “Daft”, which has what sounds like a sick snare drum being repetitively hit, drowning out almost everything until the vocals start – which isn’t until about a minute into the track. A lot of the vocals on this album are odd, too. They were definitely trying for a different sound – which is either hit or miss. “Sat. Through Tues. In July” is a miss. Its plodding, bluesy vocals never seem to quite catch, leaving you waiting for a hook that never arrives. But, the album does have it’s moments. One example would be “Scarecrow Waltz”, which shows how loose arrangements can be a good thing. It has the feeling of one of the slower, pshychedelic Pink Floyd tunes from the Roger Waters era, with the filtered vocal sound used throughout most of the album. “Super Press-Down” also has potential, with a 70’s funk sound.

But then, the return of the sick snare in “OC2”. Please, kill the snare. It’s done enough for one lifetime. And, the lounge hit “I’ll Love You in the End” has that dripping, Wayne Newton overtone to it, with none of the production value. I think it’s supposed to be up close and personal time with the band, simulating the live experience (complete with chinking glasses, background voices, etc), but it’s an odd way of going about it. “Von Chow Soul Suck”, aside from having the coolest name on the disc, also starts out with the most potential. The bass is great, a good groove with a flanger making it sound even cooler. But then it just drags on – with little else going on at all. The only vocals are some “ooh-ohh”‘s and an “oh, yeah” here and there. It just made me want to skip on to the next track. By the final official song on the album (yes, there’s a bonus track, too), “The Savior Made Me Do It”, there’s actually a full song worth of material. There’s some great jamming, with powerful vocals that aren’t understated like the rest of the disc. Basement Make-Out Party has moments. Unfortunately these moments were spent getting to the meat of some of the tunes. The carnivorous general public just doesn’t have the attention span to wait 1 to 2 minutes for vocals to kick in. They’re more likely to just stop listening.

– John MacLeod, Music Revue Magazine, May 2000, (the “Mariah Carey” issue)