REVIEWS: No-Shadow Kick – The Promo EP

Northampton, Massachusetts band No Shadow-Kick’s holiday six-song promotional EP is a short but diverse introduction to the band’s style. The opening track “In the Snow”, the only holiday song on the EP, is a holiday song for those unable to always muster up the expected amount of festive spirit. Its power and depth are highly complemented both by lead singer Tom Pappalardo’s deep and moody vocals and Elizabeth Street’s graceful backing voice on the choruses. The horns add to the subtle yet pervasive sadness buried among the lyrics. The EP’s other songs include two new and three old tunes, from the band’s 1999 LP, Basement Make-Out Party.

The second song, “Double Nothing”, billed as a “song probably about a girl”, rocks with the intensity of both loss and the recognition of growth. “Monks Don’t Tell Lies”, the second new track on the EP, is the band’s road song, complete with traffic sounds and Pappalardo’s appropriately preoccupied-sounding low-toned vocals. Herein, the road is transformed into a surprisingly spiritual locale, ripe with possibility, illustrating what the band calls the “Mike Watt metaphor of van-as-vessel”: “He reads my palm, proclaims me king, drops to his knees, averts his eyes, I stay calm, and say a joke, and he says to me: ‘monks don’t tell lies'”. Shawn Reynolds’s background vocals complete the harmony needed to transcend the everyday mundane experiences of life as represented by the road into a series of memorable and beautiful occurrences.

“The BMX Song”, from Basement Make-Out Party, is the rare instrumental that rocks, with a swoon-worthy beat that makes it incredibly hard for this listener to sit still. “Scarecrow Waltz” slows the pace down, expressed from the point of view of one who can “no longer discern life’s subtle shades”. Filled with touching, if a bit simplistic, lyrics, it takes a slow yet determined gait, while the music hypnotizes the listener into empathy with the melancholy tone of the track. The EP’s final song, “The Saviour Made Me Do It”, is a rocker complemented by powerful yet subdued guitars and is complete with the hilariously pathetic sounds of a televangelist’s pleas for more money for his ministry. Very sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek without losing authenticity or credibility, it is the most memorable track on the EP.

As an EP, this one fits together and works quite well. However, the lyrics could use a bit of punching up. Even so, these songs are beautiful seemingly without intending to be, the vocals are powerful and intense and the band can rock and elucidate without seeming either crass or that they are trying too hard. This is most definitely a band to watch-one that can combine indie rock sensibilities with the talent and wit needed to build a steady fan base and achieve sincere success. Pick up this EP, it’s worth it.

Miranda Hale, January 2002,

They had me at “hello.”

Their version of “hello,” anyway. I opened the envelope with No-Shadow Kick’s EP in it, and out fell a lovely, snowflake-covered holiday card with perfect script that read, “Happy God-Damned Winter.” Inside, they offer helpful instructions on how to classify their music: “Holiday, some sort of indy rock, and/or local, if we happen to live near you.”

I played the first song, “In The Snow,” three times straight. I really liked this morose ode to crap hanging in windows, dead trees with limbs hacked off and hung on the doors, and accident-causing black ice. This is the perfect song to play next year while you’re slamming Bacardi by the Yule log, waiting for Christmas to be over. I would pay an enormous amount of money to see NSYNC spring this one on their unsuspecting fans at their next holiday concert:

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night,
On 34th Street, it’s a wonderful life.
Thanks for the gift; it’s just right.
I’ll exchange it later for something I like.

For all their dark humor, No-Shadow Kick does take their music seriously. The word that kept popping up in my notes was “creative.” One track in particular, “Monks Don’t Tell Lies,” is an intriguing, groove-intensive, mind-expanding, surrealistic walk across a sonic desert, complete with trippy visions and paranoid vibes. I like the image of a priest doing a palm reading.

The bitter, dark “Scarecrow Waltz” also stood out for its hollowed-out vocal recording and lyrics such as:

My head is caving, my colors fading,
I can no longer discern life’s subtle shading….
You’re just the crow sitting on my shoulder, pecking at my eyes….

I especially like the way the vocal was recorded on this song. The microphone stays on during music solos, catching the singers breathing, swallowing, coughing. The mood is immediate and real.

No-Shadow Kick is a band that will try anything, using the studio as a musical playground. There’s a lovely trumpet solo on “In The Snow,” accompanied by a fake glockenspiel. (No, I don’t know either. I’m just reading the notes.) I strongly recommend this music, especially if you’ve been listening to the same kinds of artists for a while and need to sandblast the slate clean. If you like the promo CD, No-Shadow Kick also has the full-length Basement Make-Out Party CD available at their web site.

By Jennifer Layton,

No-Shadow Kick are an unsigned pop-rock band from Massachusetts. Surprisingly, given the general track record of unsigned pop-rock bands (whether they’re from Massachusetts or Fiji), No-Shadow Kick are quite good — their songs, especially the newer material, are intelligent, hummable and undeniably enjoyable. Their only problem, really, is anonymity; the Billboard charts notwithstanding, the world is full of pop-rock bands that play intelligent, hummable and undeniably enjoyable music, and our culture has scrunched them all into a massive, dense gestalt. The few acts that reach the top of the pile are often disappointed to find that their major-label deal results in an inept or nonexistent marketing push, public indifference and an eternity in one-hit-wonderland — which, in all fairness, is still far better than bands like No-Shadow Kick ever do. It’s not fair, but it’s the way the world works.

Which brings us to Promo EP. This holiday offering is apparently half new tracks, and half material culled from 1999’s Basement Make-Out Party. Although the odds are against you having heard (of) Basement Make-Out Party, the distinction is important, as the new songs blow the older ones out of the water. There’s nothing wrong with “BMX Song”, “Scarecrow Waltz” or “The Saviour Made Me Do It”, other than their busy, slightly dated, funk-derived sound and the general bulkiness of “Saviour”‘s central conceit, but the simplicity and clarity of the holiday-themed “In the Snow” beats them all. “In the Snow” is just plain gorgeous — a jangly, melodic, beautifully simple indie rock song with a hint of shoegazer fuzz. Guest vocalist Elizabeth Street adds a much-needed female contrast to the chorus, interacting wonderfully with the crystal-clear guitar melody; I hope the band can use her more in future. The surprises don’t end there, either; there’s a lovely horn and (I think) music box interlude that introduces the looped beat that guides the song to its finish. There’s more fun to come: “Double Nothing” is a more riff-intensive song, rich with indie-rock dischord and Britpop-style harmony. “Monks Don’t Tell Lies” debuts a stripped-down version of the band’s quirkier work, pairing chorused vocals and whining guitars with a canned beat, unleashing thunderous live drumming and processed vocals during its chorus. Like “In the Snow”, these songs work well because they’re not as busy as the other tunes — the production is clean, the variety high.

My advice to No-Shadow Kick: burn “In the Snow”, “Double Nothing” and “Monks Don’t Tell Lies” to a new CD and send that to labels. There’s enough variation and skill on display in that fourteen minutes to get you a deal — if that’s what you want.

– George Zahora, Splendid E-Zine

If you’re looking for music to chase away the winter blues (so what if it’s April) then No-Shadow Kick’s Promo EP may be just what you’re looking for to put a smile on your chapped lips. This trio of power poppers from Northampton, MA serves up smart, solid, and ever so sarcastic indie rock. The first three tracks are the latest from the band. They cash in on the winter motif with “In The Snow,” a poppy little tune full of one liners and word play aimed at the Yuletide. Sure it’s an easy target, but nonetheless the song will keep you chuckling and acquaint you with the band’s tongue-in-cheek nature. The second track, “Double Nothing,” is the highlight of these half dozen songs. A lovesick indie rock song, it’s full of contemplative angst over the oft-lost gamble that is love. The rhythm section keeps the track punching along on cruise control as guitar drifts through like a breeze. This track is perfect for that mix tape made especially for those long, post break-up drives to clear the head. The last of the new songs is “Monks Don’t Tell Lies,” a slightly dubbish ditty relating a moment of Zen clarity come upon during the chaos of a broken down tour van. The remainder of the promo EP is made up of tracks originally released on their debut full length Basement Make-Out Party. “BMX Song,” “Scarecrow Waltz,” and “The Saviour Made Me Do It” continue to exemplify No-Shadow Kick’s pension for bouncing from sound to sound. Stylistic A.D.D. aside, this EP helps to showcase No-Shadow Kick as a band that one hopes will continue to grow and continue to produce music that strikes a balance between talent and humour.

– John Lefler, Performer Mag April 2002

Strange stuff. We got zero info. so I’ll have to make it up as I go along. Let’s see…got a drummer, I hear bass and guitars and a guy and girl singing these rather bizarre songs. I’m gonna guess that maybe the recording is home grown. Not that it stinks or anything, it’s just the EQ and compression, etc. But the hell with all that. They’ve got an unusual way of turning a song and it’s loaded up with wacky percussive bits, swooshes, and echoey thangs. I’m loving the in-your-face vocal mix on “Monks Don’t Tell Lies” with its synth-guitar textures, drums panned left (except for that side stick) and trashy FX loop. Very creative, that. My fave of the bunch is “In The Snow.” It opens the CD and paints a lovely vignette of a winter’s day, lyrically. I also like “Scarecrow Waltz.”

– L.A. Wha?, Soundcheck Magazine

Well, it may be a little late now, but this is a six-song holiday EP from Northampton, Massachusetts’ No-Shadow Kick. Hence the “happy god-damned winter” greeting card that comes along with it and the opener, “In the Snow,” being a cutesy but melancholy holiday song with adorable supporting vocals from Elizabeth Street. “Double Nothing” rocks out a little more as a simple indie pop song about a girl, followed by the rather lethargic “Monks Don’t Tell Lies,” which is the band’s song about being on the road. Then we get three already released songs, from the band’s Basement Make-Out Party album. There is the groovy instrumental, “BMX Song,” as well as “Scarecrow Waltz,” a slow and mildly depressing number, and an edit/remix of “The Savior Made Me Do It,” a bass-driven rock number that stands out as one of the better songs offered. All together, the six songs provide a diverse introduction to a band that blends standard indie rock with hints of playfulness, melancholy and wit. (EF)

Alarm Press Oct 2003

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