Shy Boys - Bell House
Rock n' Roll has a long and storied history of brothers, roommates and childhood friends meeting together in garages, front rooms, and dank dirty basements, making music and changing the world. Kansas City, Missouri’s Shy Boys can lay claim to sharing in at least part of this legacy.
Brothers Collin & Kyle Rausch grew up singing together in the choir of their local church. After leaving home, the two separately immersed themselves in Kansas City’s flourishing local music scene. For years Collin worked all over the city playing guitar and singing with various local groups while Kyle, proficient at both bass and drums, thrived as a member of Kansas City’s The ACBs.
The brother’s paths would cross once more when the two became roommates. Eventually, Konnor Ervin, lead singer and primary songwriting for The ACBs, moved in and pretty soon thereafter the trio of roommates began making music together. Formed a year before the release of The ACBs most recent album Little Leaves (2013) Shy Boys put out their self-titled debut album the following year in 2014 on Kansas City based High Dive Records.
In the years following the release of Shy Boys (2014) the original trio lineup consisting of Kyle, Collin and Konnor expanded into the quintet that it is today with the addition of Kyle Little on guitar and keyboards and Ross Brown who, in addition to playing guitar and keyboards, also doubles as Shy Boys chief mixer and audio engineer when the band is recording in the studio.
Recently signed to Illinois based Polyvinyl Record Co (home to such notable acts as Alvvays, Xiu Xiu, of Montreal, Deerhoof, Pedro The Lion and The Get Up Kids) Shy Boys latest album, the sophomore Bell House record, is a collection of ten short whimsical tracks, four of which clock in at under two minutes in duration.
Named after a building the band called home for a number of years (inspired perhaps by The Band’s 1968 debut album Music from Big Pink) Bell House is an album of mid-tempo musings, soft ballads mostly sung in hushed falsetto tones to the strains of light guitar, both acoustic and electric, atop a solid foundation of keyboard work provided by both Little and Brown.
Heavily influenced by some of the more quizzical late 60s era recordings by the Beach Boys (as heard on the Smiley Smile, Wild Honey, Friends and Sunflower albums) many of the compositions on Bell House feel like underdeveloped half-baked lightweight Mike Love contributions when compared to the heavyweight works supplied by Brian Wilson at the peak of his powers in his mid-20s (Pet Sounds era and before).
Due in part to the extremely short duration of most of the pieces on Bell House, there’s precious little to sink your teeth into here. The record unfolds following the 78 seconds long a capella four-part harmony of opening track “Miracle Gro” into a succession of obvious nods to Beach Boys harmony and melodic structure, including a fleetingly quick stab at reimagining a brief section of Brian Wilson’s masterpiece “Surfs Up” on “Basement”. With other tracks on the album vaguely emulating the slightest whiff of Morrissey and The Smiths, including the appropriately titled “No Fun”, there’s even a hint of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the harmonies on “Tragic Loss” and its subtle accompanying Roger McGuinn sounding 12 string guitar Byrds riff.
Ultimately, Bell House is as underwhelming as it is underdeveloped. Shy Boys need to shift their considerable talents and focus more on the strength of their compositions and less on how they are realized, otherwise they stand the chance of being remembered only as a small insignificant gimmicky footnote in the 21st-century history of the Beach Boys, if they are remembered at all.