Album: Shake Shook Shaken
Artist: The Dø
Label: Cinq 7
Tested On: Grado Black – Realistic Lab 400 – Luxman R-1050 – Dynaco A-25
This album came out three years ago, and so I admit I’m a little behind the times. For all I know, you’re already aware of the monumental talent that is The Dø. What can I say; I’m living in the 60s. To be fair, Shake Shook Shaken is an album I’ve been meaning to get my hands on for some time now, and when a highly unlikely sequence of events brought it once again to my attention, I figured I would quit procrastinating. After all, I knew there was at least one song on the album worth recommending to you lovely people.
My first reaction when I played this record was that it sounded a bit more anaesthetised than I had remembered from radio play. The songs in question, however, I hadn’t yet heard. It wasn’t until “Lick my Wounds,” a song with which I was familiar, that I noticed the record was pressed at 45 rpm and that I had to up the speed of my record player in order to hear the music as recorded. No mention is made of this anywhere on the sleeve or on the record itself, and so I can only conclude that this is a cheeky little stunt on the part of the band—brilliant. As a matter of fact, the music actually sounds pretty good at the reduced speed; how generous of them to give me two versions of the same album!
Musically, this is just about the catchiest thing I’ve ever heard. Olivia Merilahti’s otherworldly and cascading vocal hook that is the chorus of “Anita No!” is nothing short of breathtaking, and “Despair, Hangover and Ecstasy” can at times be exquisitely intense. European indie pop has certainly earned a permanent place on my radar. This music hits you right where you love it, and has evoked a deep emotional response from me; the fact that I bought this record on the first day of spring is just the kind of beautiful coincidence I’ve been waiting for. Lamentably, though, the quality of the vinyl pressing really leaves something to be desired.
Where a well-made LP will outshine even high-res digital audio in terms of sophistication, colouration and warmth, these discs seem to somehow suck the life out of their own music, and this is a real shame. Whether some jaded employee sprinkled powdered sugar on the stamper, or whether the folks at Siamese Squid simply opted for the cheapest vinyl they could get their hands on, the result is pretty disappointing. All four sides are marred by eternal sibilance, and the imagery is tepid and static. Disc one came with a warped edge that, though not exactly catastrophic, might be difficult for the eccentric recluse to ignore. If it wasn’t for the tongue-in-cheek bonus album that results from the record’s unorthodox playback speed, I would have been just as happy with a CD, which, by the way, is included when you buy the vinyl.
Frankly, I would have been disappointed to have bought this record if its euphoric aesthetic and incendiary musicianship didn’t completely make up for the lax quality control that marks its pressing. Fortunately, they do. If the bonus of having a haunting and lethargic second version of the whole album is the kind of thing that turns you on, then buy the LP; if not, just go digital. Whatever you choose, do try and get your hands on Shake Shook Shaken. To ignore this album would be to do yourself a great disservice.