Rick Shaffer – Creatures Of Impulse – Album Review
So much can change in a few years! Last we caught up with Rick Shaffer was back in 2015 when we did an interview with the man and a review on what was his sixth solo-record at the time called Jitterbug Shake. Here we are now in 2018 and the dude’s already on his ninth solo album now! Time flies, as they say…it’s relentless creators and artists out there like Rick that remind us just how much can be accomplished in between point-A and point-B along the way.
Killer opening to the record – “Cool My Fear” might very well be one of the raddest jams I’ve heard from Rick so far in fact; at the very least a solid reminder of how great it is to have him back in our speakers. Sliding guitars provide serious enticement for the ears and the drums are as badass as drums can be, sounding massive in the vibe & energy fueling this first cut. It’s got that Stones-esque wildness to the groove, plenty of hooks from beginning to end that slide right into pure Rock satisfaction that hits the mark of that loose rhythm & cool, while still being executed with the foresight & vision it takes to create a track like this that’ll transport ya from wherever you are right into the thick of the mix & experience. Not that he’s given us a single reason to doubt him from what we know & have heard in the past already – but it’s still a noteworthy beginning to Creatures Of Impulse that has Rick sounding fully ready to rock once again, and definitely stands out as a great way to lead the people into the rest of the album. Continuously a kickass tune to listen to, every time you loop this record and “Cool My Fear” starts out with those big drums and sly groove, you end up hooked all over again; consider yourselves warned – if you let it run even ten seconds in, you’re likely gonna sign yourself up for this entire ride once more. In most situations that’ll be more than fine – if you end up cranking this up at your 9-5 in the office tower, maybe not so much – so be careful, cause once ya start this record you’ll really wanna keep it going.
“Flawed Perfection” has stylistic swagger that you can latch onto right away. You know it’s funny, the first track was called “Cool My Fear” as we already know – but once this second track kicked into its rhythm & groove, the first thought that crossed my mind was that the musicians & listeners out there should fear his cool! Because you really do get a ton of that in Rick’s songwriting…”Flawed Perfection” is a great example of that style of Rock he owns with such confidence, which can all be traced back to the authenticity of a life spent making the music he loves to play just as much as he loves to listen to. As a result, he ends up with songs like “Flawed Perfection” – which will more or less provide the blueprint for the whole game-plan at large, which is to make the music…be in the moment…let it go where it takes ya. Vocals have been wickedly strong, lively, and vibrant on these first couple cuts and the songwriting has been equal caliber for sure – it’s as interesting to the ears just as much as it is fun – or in the case of a track like “Flawed Perfection,” danceable even. Almost kind of like…hmm…like a Blue Oyster Cult-meets-The Stones tune at the core of its roots – and I think there’s a ton of people out there that would dig anything that might resemble a combination like that if you’re looking for something compelling to come through your speakers. That’s what “Flawed Perfection” was to me personally, it was compelling in the true sense that you wanna hear more of what’s coming at ya; a lot of that has to do with the structure, sound, chord progressions & all that technical good stuff, but most of that appeal comes from the natural rhythm & groove and authentic desire you hear Rick & his crew of musical cohorts have for making music altogether. That’s what really hooks you in – you know they’re all seriously into it and that enthusiasm, be tamed or wild, is still something that translates right to us as listeners, every time.
Letting the cool drip out just one iota slower & sweeter, “Let Go” seems to enhance its melodic edge with a little more space & time. Loving the fuzz on the guitars and absolutely dig just how wild they get just slightly in behind the scenes from the rest of the main groove happenin’ on the surface – listen close to this cut, you’ll find all sorts of hidden gems that definitely sound like the result of being in the moment, but working out very much in favor of what ends up being quite an endearing melody in a Rock-song really. Some of that genuine magic you really wanna hear in the way this song is sung, that completely connects in that indescribable way – you just know you want a whole lot more of it and as fast as you can get it into your face-holes. Rick leads this song to a beautiful place when it comes right down to it, “Let Go” is about acceptance, moving on, understanding…and it’s full of insightful lyricism, stunning sound, brilliant melody, and a seriously comforting & inviting vibe at the same time. Not only is it a wonderful stand-up tune from this record with plenty of universal appeal – but the man behind the music and the label behind the man (Tarock Music) made the smart choice of supporting this cut with a video and went & made it a single from Creatures Of Impulse. Very wise decision! Check it out below!
Guitar melodies on “Stubborn Kind” were fantastic & probably my favorite part of the song overall. Committed singers like Rick can often ask you to go along with’em for the ride at times…he brings a bit of extra drawl to the words and hangs on to them all in a noticeable rock-induced slur of sorts as he slides around with the vocals on this tune. Again, that’s organic stuff, that’s the essence in the spirit of Rock’N’Roll – you go after & try different ideas, approaches, sounds, and styles. Pretty sure the overall sweetness in the aura floating around this cut will be more than enough to keep the people on board regardless – but there are gonna be just as many people that dig the slick mix of subtle charm & charisma that Rick threads into the vocals of “Stubborn Kind.” It’s got that mid-tempo vibe goin’ on, “Stubborn Kind” kind of plods along without making any kind of intentional swings to grab your attention through anything that’s an odd fit or even a sound that’s outside of the vibe & idea created here – everything just kinda fits into place in its own pleasant way & never steps out of line. Always harder to shake the people with a mid-tempo tune and I don’t feel like Rick has tried to break that pattern here so much as embrace it for what it is, give a great stylistic performance to his vocals with a fresh approach on the album’s fourth tune, and create a strong supporting jam that provides a reset.
Because those wild sliding guitars are making a comeback into the mix and comin’ straight at ya on “High And Low” right afterwards. Another track that immediately gets the groove movin’ quickly and establishes a strong vibe the people out there are sure to dig. You got actual tambourines in the mix as well…not normally something you notice, but that extra jangle that this cut has really fills in the atmosphere perfectly. Not too much that can be said other than the fact that moments like these simply ooze cool from every pore of your speakers, full-stop. Amazing character & personality in the guitars of this tune and definitely the kind of cut that will continually entertain you with something new you’ll discover being part of the mix each time you hear it…you’ll always find what sounds like a new star of the show upon repeat. Vocals are freakin’ fantastic and one of Rick’s best performances for sure – but facts are also facts, he’s done a killer job when it comes to finding the heart of the moment in each of these tunes and creating vocal patterns & melodies that really suit these songs on Creatures Of Impulse. Songs like “High And Low” have that extra edge of shiny appeal in the catchy bounce of the groove – but once again, it’s that ‘in the moment’ feeling you get from these songs that keep you invested along the entire journey of this record. Kind of like one of those daredevil acts that you’d watch on TV or a talent show of some kind, you know? It’s like you never really want them to wipe out – but it’s the possibility that it COULD happen that keeps you locked in the grip of what you’re experiencing and that what you’re witnessing would never really be the same thing twice no matter what. It makes the successful landing of songs like “High And Low” all the more impressive.
I’ll admit, at first…at FIRST…I wasn’t too sure I’d be able to dig on the Blues-infused sounds of “All I Need” – but that initial reaction proved to be mightily incorrect – this song has got some seriously rad ideas inside it and a whole lot goin’ on. Awesomeness happening in the vocals from the lead to the background…it’s all part of a cleverly loose groove for sure, bit more bluesy, maybe a tad more soulful…but also built of pure rock spirit and passion at its core. “All I Need” ended up being a fantastic representation of the music that Rick truly loves to make – that genuine in-the-moment magic that’s nearly impossible to duplicate anytime the exact same way afterwards. He’s caught a lot of that within the walls of this record and “All I Need” is another real highlight for just how all-encompassing these vibes he creates can be – you feel a track like this as a listener, no question. I suppose what had me slightly worried at first was that it sounded like Rick was about to head into what I’d call ‘punchline rock’ for a second there…it’s like you can feel that set up for the big line & reveal coming in that first verse – but he takes it in a way better direction with one of his most soulful lines to boot. What I should know, is better than to doubt the man – he’s not about to start busting out the jokes now. So even if the pace & groove to both the music & vocals might seem like he’s about to set one up, have no fear, he keeps it on the level & focused, and the payoff is still definitely there, but in a much, much more satisfying way than you might expect in that initial spin.
All ride, all ride, all ride! That sweet-sweet fuzz on high, “Ride On Baby” gets rippin’ quick out of the gate and springs forth with a controlled energy and killer sound. Wicked solo in this tune…short & sweet, but hey, “Ride On Baby” is less than three-minutes long and in this modern-day era, just be thankful you got one at all will ya? Memorably smooth & catchy hooks that people will be singing along with instantly…it’s flashy like a hot rod, and it’s definitely got an accessible sound I could see being a real highlight on the record for many. It was for me…it’s a solid example of the idea, concept, & theme fittin’ the flow & vibe of the music spot-on, and Rick captures this moment on the mic with pure Rock confidence and that signature cool in his style he’s become synonymous with over his career. “Ride On Baby” is without question appealing on a universal level – it’s got fantastic energy and a killer riff that never quits; it feels like that true top-down highway cruisin’ at top-speed tune you’re looking for.
“Cry Any Longer” finds an edge I think people will dig on…it’s raw…maybe a bit more of a wander through the genre than the previous cuts by comparison, but still plenty of moments that are more than interesting to listen to. It’s got a rad tribal stomp & sound to the drums…I dig that…the slide guitars are as enticing as ever…the vocals remain impressively committed to the performance aspect and enhance the vibe by remaining joined with that wild energy you find in the air & attitude of the music. There’s no doubt that “Cry Any Longer” drifts further away from that accessible sound into something more meaty, ambitious, and artistic in its structure, movement, and performance – but it’s also such a decidedly different song on this record that you will certainly notice its presence on Creatures Of Impulse. My gut tells me that “Cry Any Longer” is probably a tougher sell to the masses out there overall, but I think there are enormous moments of success on this cut that should certainly be acknowledged. Those bursts of wildness injected into the slick & slyness of “Cry Any Longer” for instance – they serve this song incredibly well…essential really…its where you hear everything spring to life and Rick deliver some of his boldest vocals on the record. While he’s shouting & singing “I can feel you gettin’ stronger,” we can feel HIM gettin’ stronger as well…and it’s that kind of insightful pairing between the lyrics and performance that you’ll often find are a powerful part of the recipe in what Rick brings to the mic & that raw wildness is definitely a part of what will pull people in to listen to “Cry Any Longer.”
I liked how “Fool’s Dream” brightened-up the record when I felt like it needed the spark the most. Interesting in the sense that it’s immediately inviting…you’ll pick that up in the music right away…but it’s really from the middle-point (ish) on-forward that “Fool’s Dream” will find its most solid ground to stand on. I doubt anyone could resist the way this song opens up; especially if you’re on our side of the pond here in Canada as well…that backbone of the music on this tune sounds like it could fit right onto the early Tragically Hip records or maybe even later on with the Trouble At The Henhouse record even. Of course, Rick is decidedly different in his approach than Downie’s on the mic – but make no mistake, you’ll still find similarities – and if you know your history on both, you’ll know that Shaffer has an intense love of The Stones and that The Hip started out their career virtually as a Stones cover-band too. Love the way the guitars slide on sweetly through the chorus of this cut and overall, I felt like “Fool’s Dream” was a great example of a song that continually gets better as it plays on from beginning to end. You’ll enjoy yourself from the very start, like I said, that brightness in the guitars will grab hold of you right quick – but in terms of a song evolving and finding exciting new parts while STILL retaining the original main thread that keeps it ALL cohesive – I mean, you gotta like “Fool’s Dream” as a highlight on Creatures Of Impulse by the time it ends with how it finishes on its strongest moments for sure.
“Part Time Love” has that soothing Blues-Rock wisdom in the narrative as Rick sings, a classic emulation of the genre that somehow puts the pain out there in a comforting way that’s relatable. And ain’t that the Blues at the core of it all anyhow? We ALL experience the Blues at some point…it’s those like Rick that can detail what makes our experiences the shared ones they are by putting it all out in the open like this instead of internalizing it – that’s how we connect to the music and the messages in the genre. The transition into the bridge of this cut is freakin’ brilliant – and if you listen to the lyricism here, you’ll find plenty of double-entendres that will certainly bring a grin or two to your mug along the way. Clever stuff though…like I said, Rick’s not just throwing in cheesy jokes here, he’s played it much smarter than that by placing in some lines that can be taken in more than a few ways, but straight ahead for most on the surface without suspicion. That’s the thing about listening to music folks – you gotta actually listen to actually hear things like this that have alternate meanings within the words – or even if it’s just the multiple theories that you’ll come up with on your own, that’s what it’s all about – get INTO the music you listen to and try to figure out what it’s all about. “Part Time Love” is a lot of fun while at the same time still full of a tight jangle & groove that can be taken just as seriously – good times to be had here in the midst of searching for love at last call, in what’s probably the wrong place at the wrong time too.
You get a lil’ bit of that surf-rock/psych vibe in Rick’s garage rockin’ tunes throughout this new record at times, and definitely on the colorful sounds found on “In Front Of You.” It’s another aspect of Shaffer’s music that people will appreciate for sure – he’ll remain rooted in Rock throughout the record for sure, but there’s more than enough versatility in between each song by what he’s choosing to combine with the main ingredient, so it’s always a case of Rock+, you know what I mean? “In Front Of You” keeps it lean & mean…that main riff is undoubtedly super-strong, the distance & tone of the guitars in the mix is spectacular. Rick’s got bold presence on the mic and you can hear him seize this moment in time with confidence and authority, genuine swagger and even the occasional edge & growl that’ll creep into his performance here as “In Front Of You” builds into its smartly controlled freakout-jam towards the end. Another solid example of how well the instrumentation interacts together and the energy that comes out sounding so inspired & fresh as a result, this track makes smart moves and really goes somewhere from point-A to B, while taking all us listeners along for a slick groove that doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. The force is strong with this one…highly effective hooks and fantastic sound all around here.
Creatures Of Impulse wraps up tightly with the final track “Wrong Direction” perhaps being one of the more accessible tunes from the set and another excellent example of the expressive nature the spirit of this whole record has truly possessed along the way. You get melody, you get Rock, you get fun, you get passion, you get that ultra-cool & slick Rick sound you know & love and a perfect exit out in the fade of this final track that concludes this whole experience definitively on a lyrical & musical level as everything disappears right at the end of “Wrong Direction” and the album is finished. I felt like this last song really brought out clearly, just how much of a bridge between that land of Garage Rock sound & stadium-sized Stones-esque vibes that Rick can provide…& as always, everything sounds like he could do this all damn day & never get bored, which seriously counts so much for the listeners out there, both inside & outside of the genres that Shaffer & his crew of talent work within. He’s got that natural style that’s effortlessly committed, because he lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all-things Rock & everything that comes with it.
Full salute to a man that sounds like he’s still got another century’s worth of energy and spirit in him to keep on rocking as long as there’s enough juice in the amplifiers to support him – and a full shout-out to the talented list of players that have kept this record sounding fun, skillful, and wildly inspired. Stevie Carlisle, Billy Nichole & Boo Boo Spencer all play essential roles in bringing these songs to life alongside Rick Shaffer – clearly the vibe caught hold of them all & thankfully they were able to capture that magic between’em for the rest of us on this new record. Really well done.
Find out more about Rick Shaffer from the official website at: https://www.tarockmusic.com
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!