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Three Imaginary Girls
Recommended Show: The Shondes at the Vera this Saturday {10/1}
by Chris Estey

The Shondes are a quartet of femme-led firebrands who mix personally passionate and politically charged melodic punk with ragingly romantic vocals seasoned by klezmer verve and cosmopolitan bounce. Their urgent, explosive new album Searchlights will probably be available at their upcoming Seattle show at the Vera Project this Saturday, October 1st [2011], as the band plays on a bill with Emily B KinganEmily Hart, and Aubrey Zoli. As always at the Vera, it’s all ages, and eight bucks (seven with a club card), and guaranteed to be one of the most moving rock shows you’ll probably see this season.

Currently on tour, The Shondes initially formed in 2006, around the ferocious but still fetching lead vocals of bassist Louisa Solomon, and features forefront playing by excellent violin player Elijah Oberman and spackles of frenetic guitar from Fureigh, upon the brassy bed of shudder and boom from multi-level percussion maven Temim Fruchter’s drums. The Shondes name is based on the Yiddish word for “disgrace,” and their message is that unless you are a stubborn bully or a hypocritical moral coward you don’t need to have any. Their two previous albums were great, and in fact the second one, My Dear One, has my favorite song of 2010: “You Ought To Be Ashamed,” posted above in a live version from a feral show in a state that needed some reminder of cultural common decency.

Searchlights sheds some of the overtly florid influences of the band’s previous releases, its ten tracks being more straight-ahead modern rock in approach, less cabaret-kissed, reflecting both the story behind the album and the story of our times. The album was written within the terrifying, fighting-for-life world of Oberman’s struggle with cancer, and anthems like “Are You Ready” and “Give Me What You’ve Got” have all the vivacious life-affirmation of a classic Stiff Little Fingers or more driving early Patti Smith Band song.

The album makes a wonderfully complementary bookend to the Wild Flag album, being all cranky and tight and spilling over with raw feeling, less assured things will go right, and yet hopeful inside the blaze of life’s furnace. The full scale of Oberman’s treatment and recovery beams by its final song “Bright Again,” and the album’s first few plays will leave you breathless. I have the feeling there might be another song of this year in there for me too, and I plan to hear it live at the Vera this Saturday night.