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Album Review

A mere 30 years after Shoes emerged from their Zion, IL basement with the homemade masterpiece Black Vinyl Shoes, Jeff Murphy has struck out on his own with his first solo album, and while it's any guess what this means in terms of the band's slow but steady career as the Godfathers of the pop underground, anyone who has acquired a taste for Shoes' smart, classically crafted power pop with a smart and witty edge will fall in love with Murphy's Cantilever. According to the liner notes, Murphy wrote all 11 songs on Cantilever, played all the instruments, and recorded the tunes in his home studio, and while his engineering smarts have gotten keener all these years later, his musical instincts are thankfully little changed. Murphy is still obsessed with girls and melodic hooks in equal measure, and both figure prominently on Cantilever, from the playful double entendres of the mandolin-driven "I'm a Tool for You" and the jangly-noisy counterpoint guitars of "Never Let You Go" to the new wave-addled funk and emotional uncertainty of "A Couple of Words" and the Brian Wilson-esque plea for "Unconditional Love." Which is not to say this album is just a set of stylistic retreads — the blues figures of "She Don't Drive" are out of the ordinary for Murphy, as is the acoustic-based poignance of "Some Day Soon." But the best pop has a timeless quality that can draw from the past and the present at the same time, and that's just what Murphy has done on Cantilever; for all his vintage pop influences and long history, Murphy has fashioned a record that sounds fresh and exciting, and this album ranks with his strongest and most engaging work to date. Do John Murphy and Gary Klebe have anything this interesting in the works as well?


Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Best known as guitarist and singer with the seminal power pop band Shoes, Jeff Murphy was born and raised in Zion, Illinois and developed a passion for both music and recording technology at a young age, obtaining a record player and a 45 of "Rock Around the Clock" in 1961. Murphy was influenced by the Beatles and the many great British Invasion acts that came in their wake, as well as formative smart pop acts such as Badfinger and Big Star, and in 1973 Jeff began forming a band with his brother...
Full bio
Cantilever, Jeff Murphy
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