Tucson’s Shannon Mier goes “Wheels Up”
The sound of Tucson Arizona’s Shannon Mier is a self-described hodgepodge of classic rock singer-songwriters Dylan and Springsteen with relatively contemporary acts such as Weezer and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. And so its no surprise that the artist’s newly released full length, “Wheels Up,” comes packed full of self-reflexive, emotive lyrics, big choruses, and pop sensibility. These eleven well-produced tracks clearly showcase the work of an artist who knows his way around a pop song.
The record’s lead off track, “Sunshine and Saguaros,” takes off out of the gate. A very Weezer-sounding, powerpop synth line comes into the fore, giving way to stripped down verses. The song culminates with the repetition of a sparsely worded, upbeat chorus mingling with that same synth line. This pop trope is characteristic of the whole record. Mier is intent on giving you catchy melody after melody with no respite.
Track two, “Alpha Omega,” follows the same structure, up and including that powerpop synth sound. For all of the song’s virtues, its heavy subject matter is an anchoring vice. The Dylan influence is obvious here, though it is unwelcome. It seems wholly incongruous to hear a tract on theology sung over something that sounds like Motion City Soundtrack. “Wrong Side of the World,” the record’s subsequent track, deals with equally heavy subject matter, but the song is better suited to it. It is a thoroughly country, and roots rock number (the synth makes way for an organ), and its introspective lyrical material is given the proper musical canvas. Mier’s voice, an odd blend of country and quirk at times, is also best suited to this kind of sound.
One of the record’s hallmarks is Mier’s unwillingness to leave an idea unexplored. That is to say, there doesn’t seem to be a style or genre he is willing to turn down. At points, “The Spaghetti Song,” is pretty reggae, but the transience of these parts makes the whole seem inauthentic and out of place. A producer might do well to put this sort of erratic authorship in check.
The album picks back up with “(Don’t Throw Your) Regrets On My Grave.” Its macabre sound is achieved through some clever chord progressions and vocal performances. Even if the song is a little darker than the rest of what’s on the record, its easily as memorable and catchy as its uptempo counterparts. This balance is something the record could use more of on the whole. It is often the case that “too much” characterizes these songs. Mier is at his best when the songs are simplified, and not too divergent from the general aura of the record. “Wheels Down” is a good example of this balance.
The song oscillates between a lovely soloed clean guitar lead, and full band verses. The song is very much a rock song; it is just a dialled back rock song of that same ilk as “Wrong Side of The World.” It is worth mentioning once again that this sort of song allows Mier’s subtle southern drawl a suitable musical accompaniment. “You Fucked Me Up” is great for this reason as well. Simple enough, the song has traditional chord movements and instrumentation. There is something so charming about distilling the overarching country ethos into these four words as well. In this song Mier gets right to the point, and it comes across clearly and successfully.
The record’s final song ties much of its material together. “All My Plans (Are Floating in the Sea)” is part quirky pop, part roots. There is something about this particular line and its delivery that makes the song come across as something that might have been sung around a fire on the frontier. The song is not without its more modern touches however: plugged in guitars, Weezer sounding leads, and an oddly slow-paced bridge bring back shades of the record’s early songs.
Though its clear that Mier would do well to simplify, these songs are not without their charm. As aforementioned, this sort of melodic craftsmanship is something to appreciate for all of the unsure instrumentation. “All My Plans (Are Floating in the Sea)” is a microcosm of this problem. The song begins as something and ends similarly, though the entirety of the bridge does little to make this trajectory seem natural or even logical. The song’s very name points to the kind of split personality purveyed in its content. Nevertheless, fans of the singer-songwriter will have something to latch onto and appreciate on this record, which is, on the whole, some catchy stuff.