“I’m ass-deep in rock n’ roll again”
– “Broken Bones”
From the wilds of the Pacific Northwest comes the 100% pure hard rock of New American Shame. On their eponymous Lava/Will/Atlantic debut, the Seattle-area quintet – Jimmy Paulson: lead guitar; Johnny: vocals; Terry Bratsch: guitar; Kelly Wheeler: bass; Geoff Reading: drums – take the metallic KO of classic Seventies heavy rock n’ roll and filter it through an extreme modern sensibility. The result? Some of the most full-on, in-yer-face power rock in eons. With such ax-driven tunes as the sonic headbutt of the first single, “Under It All,” the bloozy “What’s It To You,” or the ferocious “Doghouse,” “NEW AMERICAN SHAME” packs more sharp-edged hooks than a Hellraiser flick.
“We wanted to be in a band that was more like the rock bands we grew up listening to,” says Jimmy Paulson, “Here in Seattle, things have gotten kinda grunged out over the last decade, and we really just wanted to play some fun, catchy, verse-chorus-verse, AC/DC-styled rock n’ roll. We weren’t getting anything like that to listen to, so we thought we’d make some of our own.”
New American Shame is the brainchild of veteran Pacific Northwest guitarist Paulson, a founding member of the late-Eighties hard-rock band, Tramp Alley, and the Tacoma-based 1-2-3-4 punk combo, the LemonsO not to mention a run as guitarist in the Best Kissers In The World. Inspired by his love of such icons as Guns N’ Roses, early Van Halen and classic killer Queen, Paulson re-teamed with vocalist Johnny (a pal from his teenage glory days and singer with Tramp Alley) in March of 1997, and thus, New American Shame was born. The lineup fluctuated at first, but Jimmy and Johnny’s old pals guitarist Terry Bratsch and bassist Kelly Wheeler (both late of Redneck Girlfriend) soon joined the official ranks. While Jack Stringham beat the skins on the original EP, the band now includes drummer Geoff Reading, formerly of Green Apple Quickstep.
“He’s the only member of The Shame to have his face on MTV,” laughs Jimmy. “We’ve all known each other for a long time, except for Jeff, but he fit right in. It sounds kinda stupid, but it’s like we’ve known him forever.”
Produced by Paulson and engineered by Seaweed guitarist Clint Werner, with a mix by producer/ engineer Brett Eliason (Neil Young, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees), “NEW AMERICAN SHAME” represents a return to rock’s glory days of escapist attitude and joyous abandon. In many ways, The Shame’s very existence is a reaction to the grunge which has dominated the Pacific Northwest music scene for nearly a decade.
“I didn’t know what grunge was until everybody started talking about it,” Paulson says. “And then pretty soon everybody was wearing flannel and combat boots. I mean, it was a necessary progression, it gave the region an identity, and some of the music was great, but it just got so depressing after ten years of it.”
“NEW AMERICAN SHAME” compiles The Shame’s acclaimed eight-song Will Records EP with four newly-cut tracks: “Lesson In Cool,” “Rather Be Rich,” “Down In The Valley,” and “Something Right.” Throughout the album, it’s clear that New American Shame flat-out reject the sober earnestness and bleak worldview of post-Nirvana alternative rock. Rather, anthems like “Sex Teen” and “Rather Be Rich” focus on the classic thematic components of heavy rock: cars, girls and rock n’ roll itself.
“There’s so much seriousness and dwelling on negative things in music these days,” Paulson says. “Our formula is quite the opposite: Forget you’ve got to work and rock out a little bit. It’s an escape. It’s a fantasy. It’s rock n’ roll.”
The roots of New American Shame lie in the south end of Seattle, an industrial suburban area which inspired the album’s “Auburn,” “where a cold one and some rock n’ roll might get it all done.” The world of manicured lawn and multiple step-parents, of generic tract houses and jacked-up Novas, has always been the preeminent citadel of hard rock culture.
“Most of the band hails from the suburbs,” agrees Paulson, “which is where rock n’ roll has stayed alive. Rock n’ roll has been like a cockroach hiding under an empty pizza box, in the suburbs, waiting for grunge to die down so it can breed again.”
An explosive and invigorating live unit, New American Shame have already taken their raging riffs, butt-shakin’ songs and boundless energy on the road with such current hard rock luminaries as Kid Rock, Local H, and Buckcherry, not to mention a summertime stint with The Cult. The response has been categorically positive, with audiences reacting with immediate glee to The Shame’s metal-flecked arena rock.
“People embraced us from the start,” Jimmy says. “It was obvious that people were missing this kind of music, even younger people, who didn’t grow up listening to this stuff. I don’t know whether this was just the fashion, but a lot of the grunge bands shunned all the things I thought were part of the fun of rock music. Rock n’ roll should be more reckless.
“I’m very passionate about this music,” he avows. “It was a dying art form, and it needed to be resurrected. I want to tell everybody, rock is not dead. It’s happening again. All indications are rock n’ roll has definitely got more than a pulse. It’s about ready to leave the hospital and go home.”