Brian Shapiro follows the beat of his own drummer. The unique confluence of life experiences and musical talent always produces interesting, if nothing else, results. Los Angeles born Shapiro is no exception. His signature synthesis of punk, new wave, singer/songwriter, and a smattering of rock would be enough to set him apart, but there’s more. His lyrical acumen is like no other; Shapiro has a sharp satirical edge, but there are other prominent voices in his work. You Me Future Now is his latest full length release. Ten songs delving into familiar territory for Shapiro, a socially conscious element never far away from his concerns, but anyone fearing contemporary broadsides can rest easy. Shapiro isn’t out to make converts. He writes and sings about what strikes him in a manner all his own.
“Drip Drip” definitely fits that bill. The scant lyrics seem like a near-afterthought, ad-libbed perhaps as the recording has a definite live quality. This performance smacks of being recorded with the full band in the room, one take. It has a chaotic aspect that many will find appealing; some will appreciate a straighter approach. Persevere, however, and greater moments follow. The vibraphone-laced bitterness of “Privacy” ventures into far more specific territory than its predecessor. Listeners familiar with Shapiro’s past work will note the similarities but we’re getting a different spin here. His continued skill at pouring old wine into new bottles further sets him apart.
One of the album’s highlights is its single “Better in TX”. Piano catches the ear here with a romping performance threaded throughout and you can’t help but admire Shapiro’s brio. He throws himself fully into each of the vocal performances and his added theatricality elevates the lyrics. “No Other He” takes several unexpected musical turns and has an largely acoustic attack that, nonetheless, strikes out for its own world. It’s to Shapiro’s singular credit as a songwriter, performer, and musician that he’s able to bring us along on these comparatively obtuse musical journeys.
His delivery may take getting used to newcomers. Everything sounds exaggerated, heightened for comic effect, and the off-balance charisma can sometimes be unsettling. Shapiro seizes on high theatricality. .The lacerating guitar romp of “If There Really” doesn’t need any extended lyrics, however, to get its point across and what words Shapiro writes only sharpen its barbs. It focuses on one of his core songwriting values – Shapiro’s writing is intensely human, fixated on the experiences we pass through during everyday life, and takes many forms.
“Oh, You Children” may catch some off-guard with its distinctive bluesy musings. Including slide guitar licks in one of their songs is impressively direct and even more so because they never play its presence for laughs. Shapiro’s voice is as distinctive as ever but contains an unexpected surfeit of soulfulness.
Brass is another unexpected weapon in the Shapiro Band’s musical arsenal and the penultimate cut “Yikes!” emphasizes its value to his music. The vibraphonist Behn Gillece makes another appearance as well. There’s a wealth of compelling music and songcraft heard during You Me Future Now; the Brian Shapiro Band’s third outing doesn’t disappoint.