Douglas Martin’s Dirty Shoes: Shannon and the Clams Take a Weird Ride in “Corvette”

The song hardly registers above a whisper, an uncommon but not unwelcome volume for the Oakland trio.
By    June 16, 2015


Douglas Martin just powerbombed Machine Gun Kelly

I get a lot of flak from people who aren’t Shannon and the Clams fans saying the band—without question one of my very favorite groups of the past five years—relies too heavily on pastiche, that their songs are just piss-takes on a handful of long-forgotten genres. There are music fans you encounter in the world, ones who believe bands are making fun of something just because those fans themselves don’t know how to have fun. (They’re the same people who stare wistfully at Arcade Fire records and don’t dance no more, they just stand there like this.) Look, I’m not going to say Shannon and the Clams aren’t campy sometimes, but that’s the lion’s share of the fun.

Out of the songs on their (predictably excellent) forthcoming new record Gone by the Dawn, “Corvette” moves at the slowest pace, operates at the weirdest frequency, and carries the most emotional weight. Over the lurch of the rhythm section, guitarist Cody Blanchard makes his staccato lines sound like they’re tip-toeing through a building with a high ceiling. Shannon Shaw is a lyricist who revels in observing the little details (the feel of the leather seats in the titular sports car, the driving gloves of the person manning the wheel) and a singer who can convey a lifetime of longing even when she’s at her most understated. The song hardly registers above a whisper, an uncommon but not unwelcome volume for the Oakland trio.

That’s not to say seriousness has completely dulled the band’s rich sense of humor. While the video itself is partly reminiscent of French New Wave cinema—with the band performing in black-and-white, their shadows casting over the spotlit wall behind them—the other part takes cues from spiritual successor John Waters (going back to the difference between camp and pastiche, if you don’t think Hairspray is a classic, enjoy your Fellini movies, I guess), with Shaw in her best pinup fashion riding shotgun in a car obviously designed by an 80s computer graphic program long out of circulation.

The driver is (surprise!) a guy with a pompadour who ultimately turns out to be Limited Edition Greaser Ken. (A great subversion of the idea that girls in videos are usually treated as accessories and not actual people.) The green screen behind them projects off-color moving images of scenery, vaguely psychedelic in their utter disregard for realism. By the end, the car is stopped, Shaw is disappointed by the realization of her plastic lover, and cries exaggeratedly drawn pink tears. Relationships are hardly ever what they’re cracked up to be, even though we continually, even endlessly, chase the feeling we get when we’re in them. “Corvette” is about a girl, a boy, his car, and how the latter is sometimes the emissary for the dissolution of the former two as a tandem. A band would have to try really hard to have subject matter like that in front of them and take the piss out of it.

lede photo by Alexander Warnow

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