Sep 12

The Del Fuegos: “Shame”

The Del Fuegos -- Boston, Mass.

Lots of white space: A sure sign that your record company doesn’t want to splurge on your album.

I don’t like to post on Sept. 11, because I think people expect some insightful commentary about the subject. And I suppose by even saying that I’m bowing to that pressure, whether it’s really there or not. I suppose it’s more something I think I’m supposed to do. Well, I’m not going to, really, other than to say I’m glad we’re getting farther and farther away in time from that terrible day, and hopefully edging closer to a time where something like that is unimaginable, where no one hates the U.S. enough to want to do that. But maybe that in itself is the unimaginable thing. Who knows.

For today’s post, I’m not going to try to tie it in, either, unless you feel like reading something into the song title (and if you do, it’s not my fault): “Shame,” by the legendary Boston band, The Del Fuegos. One of the most glaring omissions from my recent list of Boston bands of the ’80s and ’90s, the Del Fuegos were one of the greatest and most “Boston” of the city’s bands. Gritty and hard-working, they were led by the deceivingly brainy Dan Zanes — I say “deceivingly” because his cigarettes-and-beer voice doesn’t necessarily clue you in to what a smart songwriter he was (and still is, although these days he’s more dedicated music for kids — but even those albums are some of the least dumbed-down of any children’s music out there). His lyrics with the Del Fuegos were emotional and often poetic in a more-personal Springsteen kind of way. You could say his songs were the equivalent of a “man of few words,” but what words that he used counted for a lot. And musically, they start from a roots-rock base, but take the music in unexpected directions.

The Del Fuegos’ 1984 debut album, The Longest Day, was quite simply one of the best albums of the ’80s, but the 1985 followup, Boston, Mass., isn’t far behind. Produced by Mitch Froom (who also did a great job on the debut), it smooths down a few of the rough edges and fleshes out some of the instrumentation of the debut, for better or worse, but the Zanes’ songcraft is still strong. My favorite of the batch is “Shame,” with its spacious aural setting and ultra-cool late-night pool-room vibe. The reverb is wide 0pen and perfect in the intro, from the opening “Even It Up”-like guitar intro to my favorite part of the song: the way the creeping second guitar lunges in after Zanes sings “standing in the rain.” Really, the Del Fuegos could have done anything after that and I’d still love the song, but the fact is that the rest of the song maintains that same level of excellence, right through to the chorus:

And I won’t let things
Get the better of me.

Words to live by, indeed.

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