Personnel: Dan McGee (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Gregg Levy (guitar, bass guitar); Rock Forbes (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Wesley Wolfe.
Recording information: Goner Record Store, Memphis, TN; His House, Memphis, TN; Memphis, TN; The Goner Record Store, Memphis, TN; Warrior Sound, Chapel Hill, NC.
During the years that followed the Spider Bags' awesomely messed-up 2009 release Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World, disturbing reports began to circulate that songwriter, guitarist, and all-around frontal lobe Dan McGee had gotten married and was cleaning up his act, cutting down on his drinking and generally acting like a healthy person. Thankfully, McGee may be looking after his liver lately, but his muse appears to still be knocking `em back; 2012's Shake My Head captures most of the same dazed frenzy as Goodbye Cruel World and is still full of tales that could come from a "can you top this?" session at an AA meeting, but this band sounds better than ever, ragged but right with just enough tightness to make the songs communicate and the guitars hit with force. Right off the bat, "Keys to the City" shows McGee and his cohorts are in fine form, with the track sounding like a revved-up thrash band trying to play a good time hoedown, and throughout these sessions, McGee, bassist Gregg Levy, and drummer Rock Forbes fuse tough but loose-as-a-goose rock & roll with clouds of bleary aural weirdness, recalling the approach of fellow liquor visionaries the Grifters but with significantly wilder and more spontaneous sounding results. McGee's songs may seem chaotic on the surface, but a second spin reveals he has a potent way with a melody and a hook, and his stories of hard-living losers are often funny but cut deep at the same time ("I can't keep a phone and I can barely pay rent/And the car I own, I only really own the dents"). It would be both too easy and not especially accurate to compare the Spider Bags to the Replacements, the all-time kings of rock & roll boozing, but Shake My Head does have a few things in common with the `Mats best work -- no matter how sloppy you may think they are, this band still hits harder and sounds more committed doing it than 99-percent of the folks who try to walk this path, and this album shows they have it in them to take their ideas and make them work in the studio. Not quite perfect, but some sort of triumph, to be sure. ~ Mark Deming