When listening to Shy Boys’ new album Bell House, it’s easy to get caught up in the facade the band tries so hard to portray. They are sweet and shy, demure to the point of almost being intoxicating. Their sugary harmonies blend in well with their simple soft rock, but the Shy Boys don’t seem to have a punchline. Complexity doesn’t seem to be in the wheelhouse for this Kansas City band, though they are able to mask it with an unsure self-indulgence reminiscent early Beach Boys recordings.
It’s only fitting that this band has named themselves the Shy Boys, especially given the shallow croon of voices that paint pictures of the life of a poor wallflower. While this style of storytelling may appeal to the listener’s pale, inner lonestar, there is a severe lack of self-awareness and irony to the pictures that the Shy Boys paint. Everything’s just a little too simplistic, carefree, and easy. If you’re looking for a background track to express angst and self-discovery, look elsewhere. And while there is a complexity to the way the music itself plays out, it’s difficult to buy into Bell House as being a serious form of self-expression.
In further exploring the Shy Boys’ latest album, there are certainly highlights that present themselves from time to time. The final track, “Champion”, is fun and bubbly and showcases the depth of what the band is trying to accomplish. Bell House stands at a measly 23 minutes in length, so it would be encouraging to watch them evolve their craft beyond 2 minute vignettes as they did in “Champion”. Another positive sign is their understanding of layering and harmony, however understated it may be. Whether or not their sound is suited for a younger generation, though, remains to be seen.
The Shy Boys absolutely live up to their guarded and lonesome name with their new album Bell House. Shrouded in early Beach Boys-inspired harmony and muted musical tones, they struggle to make their mark in memory. Perhaps this is what works best for them, making each song sound new as the tracks pass. However, without the hook or sinker, all the Shy Boys have is a line in the water that causes very few ripples.