Seeing The Blind Shake live is like watching a well-oiled machine in action. There's no choreography per se, and no gratuitous stage antics, like fog machines and such. But somehow you can't take your eyes off the Minneapolis bandthe musicians lurch together in a sort of unintended unison as if they're just extensions of their instruments. They make it look easy and natural. They make garage rock seem sophisticated without getting uppity.
Key to a False Door relays that feeling more than you might expect, even without the visual of a live show. The choppy chants of "Garbage on Glue" make me think of early, pre-disco Gang of Four. Basslines volley from one note back to the other in a shimmy-shake, clap-happy way. That danceable playfulness blends with a melody that seeps with minor keys and is blanketed by static. The moody tone ensures songs, no matter how danceable, never feel like vapid dance tracks. "Can't Stand Life" has the upbeat whoa-oh of a good Ramones tune, but layered with surfy riffs and fuzz. In the background you can hear the pitch wax and wane, and sometimes when it hits high notes it almost sounds like a scream, adding a little anxiety to the mix.
The album's songs aren't necessarily about dancing or having a good time, like some garage rock is. Even if you can't exactly hear what The Blind Shake is singing, you can tell that "Anaerobic" and "Crawl Out" grow out of darker sentiments. With "Viva La Misery," of course, it's more obviousthough the punchy chorus implies having a party more than huddling alone in some depressing room. The Blind Shake hasn't done much new with this album except for adding a little more psychedelic sheenno ridiculous meanderings into hip-hop or new jazz like some bands do, thank goodness. Key to a False Door lives up to the swift, no-b.s., de-tuned style that the band has honed to a glistening point.
The Blind Shake plays the VFW Sat., Oct. 19, at 9 PM with Thee Oh Sees and The Boxcutters. $12/$15 for ages 18 to 20.