By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
Consider the plight of the nonsinging bassist. If you're not Paul McCartney plucking the strings as you sing one of your own songs, what are you to most rock fans? Michael Anthony, the chubby, replaceable timekeeping cog in someone else's band. It's a dismal fate for a musician, but it doesn't have to be that way.
Shiner's Paul Malinowski is proof that a bassist can shape a band's sound, not just mark time till the next guitar solo. He's got an elastic style of playing that easily switches gears from slow tonal planes of throb to the rapid, rib-thumping chug-chug of the finer industrial-grade diesel engines.
Of course, he's helped out quite a bit by the fact that Shiner is a band of musicians who don't feel hobbled by the clichés of loud rock. On their new album, Starless (Owned and Operated Recordings), drummer Jason Gerken continues the Shiner tradition of complex rhythmic attack-and-delay patterns, proving that heavy doesn't have to come courtesy of a bludgeoning 4/4 beat and relentless double-kick drum salvos. Vocalist/guitarist Allen Epley avoids the histrionics and melodrama of someone like, say, that dude from Creed. None of that faux-operatic "Can you take me higher" crap that puts the "grrrrr" in "singer." Epley works in metaphors and strange twists of phrase, singing over some of the best guitar chord/noise this side of Five Deadly Venoms, courtesy of new addition Josh Newton. The two of them take advantage of the frequent open spaces in Shiner songs to unleash angular swaths of noise and effect-pedal disturbance to keep things interesting. The result is a thick sonic document that demonstrates that in the long run, intricate and intelligent can outweigh simple and loud. But not to worry, fellow tinnitus sufferers: Shiner does bring the loud. They are from the Kansas City tradition of Season to Risk, Giant's Chair and Kill Creek, among others, and those amp knobs will be twisted 'round to 10 for the duration of the show.