Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

All Nite Skate / Western Shame


Greg W. Locke

Whatzup Features Writer

Published November 30, 2006

Heads Up! This article is 16 years old.

All Nite Skate’s debut full-length album, Western Shame, begins with an appropriate explosion

before spinning into layer after layer of epic guitar work. No, this is not

your average Fort Wayne band, not in the slightest.

Upon the release of their self-titled EP (more

specifically the opening track, “Bear Claw”) All Nite Skate became a band to

watch. Usually, when a young band releases a “teaser” EP, everything feels

half-realized. Such was not the case with ANS. No, they came out of the musical

womb as teenagers, one half-step away from beauty and bronze and, to the

everyday listener, a world away from everything else going on in Fort Wayne’s

burgeoning music scene. Western Shame is Fort Wayne’s most original product all year, a

sound to cherish and an album to play for your out-of-town friends who don’t

believe it when you tell them that your hometown has a band every bit as good

as Explosions in the Sky. Yep, they’re already that good.

Such early mastery doesn’t come without a lot of

work and a clear understanding and knowledge of your craft. Clearly, Cole

Strader (bass, Rhodes), Bob Haddad (guitar, harmonica), Darcy Flanagan (keys,

bells, piano, accordion), Kay Gregg (drums, percussion) and Omar Afzaal

(guitar, bass) have done their homework and spent their share of time

practicing. Sonic Youth, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Pelican, Explosions in the

Sky, Can, Slint and even the Smashing Pumpkins are all somewhere in the mix of

the 10 songs that make up Western Shame. And while ANS have a way to go before they can be

named alongside such accomplished bands, Shame is – Pumpkins aside – better than any

of said band’s debut releases.

Despite utilizing a decent number of instruments

and a slew of guitar layers, ANS keep it simple on Shame. With no singer in sight, minimal

production, beautiful hand-made album artwork and word-of-mouth promotion, Shame’s approach is the kind that inspires.

With above average talent, a whole lot of hard work, persistence and a good

record collection, it’s possible to put out an album that transcends the term

“local,” and these guys (and gals) have done it.

“Battlestations,” “Bearclaw” and “Darcy’s Song” are

all reworked from the EP into less flashy, more intricate mini epics that

thrive on both the tight chemistry of the band and, notably, Haddad and

Afzaal’s modern Tom Verlaine/Richard Lloyd-like guitar chemistry.

As Lou Reed once told The Strokes’ guitarists

Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond, Jr., “I know what you guys are doing with

those two guitars because I used to do it, and it sure wasn’t easy.” The same

can be said for Haddad and Afzaal’s tangling guitar work. With their juxtaposed

riffs and solid-as-a-rock rhythm section, ANS add the bonus flourishes that

every good instrumental band needs to take their sound to another level. These

flourishes come, usually, by way of multi-instrumentalist Flanagan, who adds

all the right moves at all the right moments, further proving that ANS are

well-studied.

The sprawling “Darcy’s Song/White Wire” builds to

climax around the 3:30 mark, then drops its bags, relents and picks right back

up with a whole new knuckle sandwich of ideas. ANS are, if nothing else, very

capable of dreaming up impressive 10-minute songs that show their compositional

skills. They don’t noodle around like a jam band, and they don’t sway in their

skivvies to the tiny prick of ambiance; rather, they build saturated epics made

especially for “advanced” listeners. Listeners who used to love King Crimson

and Brian Eno but anymore find them to be boring or predictable. Quite the

feat, I must say, for a band so fresh.

For an A.D.D.-plagued generation that’s too

modern for Beethoven, All Nite Skate’s Western Shame is a fine example of modern

composition at it’s most fulfilling (see “Andre the Giant” for a quick, easy

fix). Sure, they aren’t for everyone, but to the folks who’ve spent 100 times

more money on records in their life than clothing, this is (once again) it. Western Shame is guitar-textured proof that Fort

Wayne isn’t the “stupidest city in the U.S.,” as previously reported by some

attention-seeking rag a couple of years ago. The album, as well as the band’s

EP, is available at Convolution Records on Wells St. or via

www.allniteskate.com.

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