The Brian Shapiro Band – All That We See (LP)
There are plenty of pros and cons that came out of the immense amount of free time folks found themselves unexpectedly submerged in due to the global pandemic that began in 2020, and the positives for some came in the form of artistic expression. The Brian Shapiro Band was the outlet of one such positive for Philadelphia-based musicians Brian Shapiro, Ed Moman, and Ben Kutner-Duff. For Brian Shapiro in particular, this was a new chapter in a widely-cast net of musical endeavors: before his time with the BSB, he has spent time as a street performer in cities such as New York City and San Francisco, and has even fronted an electronic music trio for a pop-up event in Paris, France. For him to further his reach into the musical melting pot by releasing an album under his name felt like the next organic step, and all of his life experiences feel fully on display within the border-melting, genre-bending album All That We See.
Listeners will immediately recognize Shapiro’s background in theatre with the way he crafts songs like they’re nearly all from the perspective of characters known to grace the stage and screen; holding names such as Tom Waits, David Bowie, and DEVO in high regard within his bio, Shapiro has his work cut out for him as far as imagery within his music goes and he succeeds while still maintaining a singular, unique voice of his own. Within All That We See, there are hints of Americana with head nods to a rockabilly flavor palate that holds grunge undertones close, as well as songs that feel much more earnest, though still storied, most recognizably in the third track “What’s Real.”
“What’s Real,” a nice duet featuring Erica Zimmer, cuts up the more zany aspects of the album and is the song the album’s title is derived from; it feels like a beautiful centerpiece for the album as a whole within its nine tracks total. The final minute of the track features a section that breaks down into a fun jam-band session that harkens back to an era of music championed by the Grateful Dead, yet, just when you think you have the band pinned, the fourth track “Why Wait” pivots into a surf-rock bop, chugging like a reckless semi-truck down a bumpy road. The album is noticeably worth revisiting, even if just to dissect its direct lineage in influences throughout rock history and beyond.
The notable additions of Moman and Kutner-Duff keep Shapiro’s front-and-center attitude from getting too far away from itself, with the music maintaining a safe distance from ever becoming too derivative. The most unhinged the band ever gets is on album-closer “Le Chien,” but by the end of the journey that is All That We See, it’s an unhinged ending well worth experiencing. Atmospheric echoes accentuate Shapiro’s French yip-yapping (literally) over a pretty standard guitar strum, and it fully delves into experimental territory by the time the album comes to a close. The brass on a band able to not only attempt something like “Le Chien,” but to pull it off marvelously, is rare but the sentiment certainly hits home and cements these nine tracks as something listeners will not only enjoy while they play… but remember after they’re over.