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Shannon & The Clams are fearless in facing loss on The Moon Is In The Wrong Place

"The Moon Is In The Wrong Place"

Release date: 10 May 2024
Shannon The Clams The Moon Is In The Wrong Place cover
07 May 2024, 09:00 Written by Matt Young

A little more than eighteen months ago Shannon & The Clams singer and lead songwriter Shannon Shaw faced the sudden and devastating loss of her fiancé, Joe Haener, to a tragic car accident mere weeks before their wedding.

To say that this event and coming to terms with such a cataclysmic force dominates The Moon Is In The Wrong Place is the biggest understatement ever. From the world knocked off its axis premise of the title track to each retro-tinged or krautrock-inflected tone included here the album is heavy with Haener’s presence in many ways.

It begins with “The Vow”, a song Shaw had written as a surprise for Joe at their wedding. The song is steeped in the unrequited future the couple didn’t get to experience and nestles in spiritually and also sonically amongst the ‘teenage tragedy’ records of the ’50s and 60’s “Like Tell Laura I Love Her” or “Leader of the Pack”, the girl-group and garage-rock sounds of that era have long formed part of the group’s hallmark. Whilst it’s a sombre lyrical place to begin it also turns out to be thrilling as Shaw makes herself more vulnerable and unafraid, taking her powerful voice into sweeter areas too.

The Moon Is In The Wrong Place is a record that bares its scars, unflinchingly displays heartache, and yet manages to also tug out threads of hope, happiness in having at least experienced deep love before despair. Shaw ultimately takes comfort in the idea that Joe is both an inspiration and a guiding presence for this new music resulting in the band's most creative-sounding and personal release to date. The off-kilter Krautrock of “The Hourglass” cascades along hypnotically and paves the way for the first standout song in “Big Wheel”. The bouncing garage-pop spins circles and struts its thick fuzzy riffs. Celestial references, stars, sky, and the moon obviously, all get repeated mentions and nowhere more so than on “Oh So Close, Yet So Far” which gazes deep into the cosmos at the Milky Way, eclipse, rainbows, etc. seeking reassurance of our fragile lives on earth.

Bandmate Will Sprott takes on rare lead vocals for the trippy “UFO” and Cody Blanchard also sings about his experience of loss taking lead vocals on both “The Hourglass” and “What You’re Missing” with its warm northern soul, doo-wop tone. Shaw’s voice always manages to steal the show though and on the dreamy, gentle “Real or Magic’ the nostalgic Elvis rock ‘n] roll era is captured stunningly depicting a vision of Haener that appeared to Shaw as if his death wasn’t real after all. That immediately gives way to the 60s psyche rock of the album's title track. Careening around untamed, almost demented in its assertions that the moon is indeed in the wrong place.

“So Lucky” is sung mantra-like, feeling that good fortune at having had the time together they did. The uplifting almost buoyant set of “Dali’s Clock”, “Bean Fields” and “In The Grass” musically lift the mood from reflective to hopeful as Shaw describes Joe’s presence being everywhere. They bounce and cajole and sound fun in their positive outlook. “Golden Brown” again evokes the 60’s girl group era lyrically referring to everything looking the same but feeling changed. Shannon rounds out the album with the light accepting “Life Is Unfair”. Understanding how fairness is a futile feeling and knowing there’s beauty in enjoying everything you have now, including having Haener in her life, however briefly.

Shaw and her bandmates have sought to deal with the bewildering tragedy, finding themselves healing through music, as cliched as that may sound. The album feels like a cohesive piece all hung on the idea of coming to terms with and accepting loss.

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