The Brian Shapiro Band’s third studio album You Me Future Now is the Philadelphia-born quartet’s nerviest release yet. They aren’t completely alien to mainstream music, Shapiro writes traditional songs albeit in a distinctive way, but he continues breaking with modern songwriting in important ways. Utilizing stalwart elements of American roots music is definitely a new turn for the four piece and they make it work without ever sounding disjointed. The foundational elements of Shapiro’s songwriting are rock and splinter along punk, art, and theatrical lines. He moves back and forth between them without any audible strain.
“Drip Drip” is Shapiro at his most lyrically inchoate. It doesn’t make the track void of meaning, however, as it burns with white hot fire and fury at various times. This is a band that is a case study of overwhelming listeners with something other than effects and volume. Dynamics are the reason. No hard rock posturing is necessary for Shapiro and his fellow musicians to generate impressive heat. The mid-tempo pace of “Privacy” switches up the speed during the song’s second half, but the bulk of the cut adheres to a specific template. The song showcases, as well, his ability to write about contemporary subjects with distinctive style and flair.
The irrepressible swing and barroom piano of “Better in TX” is a little bit of a musical departure for the four pieces. Shapiro mines a satirical vein once again, however, though the target of his ire may seem to some like low-hanging fruit. He sings with audible zest and relish, letting his theatrical instincts play, but never descends into outright buffoonery. Third person yet self-revelatory, “No Other He” has a strong acoustic jangle despite its odd timekeeping. It unrolls for listeners and moves in a circular fashion. Only the brief and deliberate introduction supplies any real contrast. It has a personal touch lacking from many other You Me Future Now songs.
The post punk roar of “If There Really” gives listeners’ another shift in gears. Shapiro does an excellent job striking with his own particular stylistic hybrid that defers to traditional genre strengths whilst plotting its own course. “Oh, You Children” has a surprisingly bluesy sound thanks to the recurring slide guitar and the song’s tempo; Shapiro seizes the moment to deliver one of his best vocals yet on any release.
His deep nod to classical influences comes with the album finale “Hangin’” and what could be affectation leaves a lasting mark. It lends added gravitas to a personal statement song and the idiosyncratic nature of such an arrangement serves as final notice that The Brian Shapiro Band does things their own way.
You Me Future Now has something to offer everyone, no small feat, and invites repeated listens. It’s far from an one and you’re done listening. It’s a continuing hallmark of his career so far. Brian Shapiro and his cohorts aren’t writing and recording cookie cutter songs destined for the dustbin. There’s a real sense afoot of a band attempting to lay down something lasting and You Me Future Now is a long step in that direction.