Reflect and Shine
Whaling City Sounds 2005
Rob Pemberton, James Gagne

1. It's All Gone
2. Reflect and Shine
3. Lucy Walker
4. When We All Start to Rust
5. Blind Eye
6. Lighten Up Your Life
7. One Candle Burns
8. Flee
9. Dying Nation
10. Disorder

Find more record reviews...

Shipyard Wreck brings the funk on their debut


Debut albums are tricky. The band, assuming it's not some cookie-cutter, made to order production, has a lot of weight on their shoulders. They can't max themselves out and burn to rubble on their debut, but they do have to prove themselves. They have to show they're worth listening to. They have to make you want to see their show. They have to believe in their sound.

Or, at the very least, that's how they feel when they're recording.

So it's a balancing act: Go in, do your thing, do your best, and all the while pray to Jesus/Buddah/Allah/Ra/Neil Young that it all works out. And to rest any fear that our subject, one Shipyard Wreck of southern Massachusetts, may be feeling, congrats. You done good.

Reflect and Shine contains a certain enthusiasm that cannot be denied. Throughout the record, James Gagne's Ray-Charles-meets-Gregg-Allman vocals boom, with tight, funky, rocking beats chugging away behind. A lot of the album, including "Lucy Walker" and "When We All Start To Rust," is undeniably catchy. There's a definite feeling that these four just enjoy playing music, and that's all too rare these days.

But it's not just the sing-songy songs that make this album what it is. Those just make you curious to see if they can pull it off live. The rest shows that they believe in their sound and that they feel that they are worth that second listen. The ballad "One Candle Burns" contains a risk in itself – it's hard to sound genuine these days, and they pull it off. "Blind Eye" makes a few veiled attacks on the current political climate behind a tough beat without ever coming off as pretentious. And "Flee," easily the album's standout track, combines the sense of urgency that makes music as vital as it is. It's played as if it's the last song this band will ever play, so they make their time count.

As with all first shots, there are missteps too, though. "Dying Nation" is a nice-enough song, but the faux-reggae beat is hard to get past the first few listens. The glass-clanging noise in "Rust" doesn't sound quite live enough to be authentic (to find a good example of when this works, check out "Train Kept A-Rollin'" from Aerosmith's Get Your Wings, then go back to pretending they broke up). There are other subtle studio touches that just bug me from a gloss standpoint, just from the knowledge of what this band is capable of live. Sometimes they enhance the song, and sometimes it sounds like they might have spent too much time in the studio. But those are the growing pains of recording.

But, again, this is a band that clearly enjoys what they do, and the album shows that. One listen to some of John Fernandes' guitar lines, combined with the rhythm of Dan O'Rourke and Pete Magalhaes, will show that they probably spent just about as much time listening to Miles Davis and Muddy Waters as they did Sly & the Family Stone, and the chance to mix-and-match the two must make them giddy.

It's a fun record, but above all, it's a real record. And, hopefully, it's also just an introduction.

E-mail Nick Tavares at