The Shrine – Rare Breed

The burden of rock is a Sisyphean onus. I keep waiting for something new, something different – that doesn’t suck – to happen in rock ’n’ roll. But today’s rock soldiers just keep pushing the same goddamned boulder up the same goddamned hill – only to see it roll back down the same way it did umpteen times before.

California skate-rockers The Shrine has been pushing that rock for almost a decade now. I’ve got to give these guys credit for persistence. They certainly do have cool influences. They seem like cool people. And they really do want to rock out, man.

The Shrine is three well-intentioned dudes who are trying to do a postmodern pastiche of ’70s proto-metal (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, KISS) and ’80s proto-hardcore (Black Flag), or at least that’s what they claim. I’ve always wanted to like these guys. And I’m betting they probably kick some ass in the live setting. But the newly released Rare Breed is still lacking in that (un)certain X-factor department. It just never gels. Maybe the band is carrying the proverbial torch from a bygone era into the not-so-new millennium, but they can’t breathe any life into it.

Granted, Rare Breed is recorded a hell of a lot better than the prior Bless Off, which sounded like a demo. Producer Dave Jerden (Anthrax, Offspring, Alice In Chains, RHCP) does an admirable in making the album sound big. But no matter how much polish you put on a turd, well, you get my drift, right? The end result is a bunch of well-recorded but mediocre (at best) songs – a vainglorious attempt to recreate a musical epoch that never existed.

The Shrine never met a ’70s cliché they didn’t like. I’m surprised there’s not a song on the album called “Radical Gnarly.” Still, we get “Acid Drop,” “Dusted and Busted” and “Space Stepping,” all lyrical masterpieces. I think the band was sincerely trying to (sorry) enshrine the ’70s, but the fare is so hackneyed that it almost comes off as poorly executed satire.

But who cares? Lyrics don’t really matter in hard rock, right?

No they don’t.

But The Shrine can’t deliver musically, either. Sure, the band can serve up a convincing riff now and again – but not nearly enough. Worse yet is the overall lack of excitement to the whole affair. Hard rock works best when it has an element of chaos – just enough swing to where the music seems like it’s going to spin out of control and break down at any second. Rare Breed is so locked-in and nailed-down, well, it’s sterile. It’s safe. It’s boring.

The Shrine doesn’t sound like a real band. They sound like a bunch of bad actors in bad wigs portraying a cock rock band in a made-for-TV movie. The script is bad. The premise is schlocky. Not even the costuming works.

Seriously, I really wanted to like The Shrine. I gave them two chances. Even though I was disappointed by their last album, I was willing to take a leap of faith once more with Rare Breed. (Yes, I actually buy hard copies of albums.) So here I sit, broken hearted… You know where this one’s going.

The Shrine
Rare Breed
[Century Media]