One of the first things that entered my mind when I heard that Pretty Maids’ bass player Rene Shades was about to release a solo album was; “in which way will his record company promote this”? Will they use him being a member of Pretty Maids as a sales argument or will they leave it out, trying to sell Shades as something entirely new? I wonder because Pretty Maids are still not a huge band – which they really should be – and the music on Shades’ record is apparently totally different from Pretty Maids. I think the Pretty Maids connection here might be a hard sell because if we’re honest, who would buy a record based solely on that Shades is the bass player in that band? Well, I kinda would but then again, I’m not really normal in that sense. I would bet that unless you’re a hardcore Pretty Maids fan, you wouldn’t. So, for the most of us, Rene Shades is the cool bassist in the top-hat but we know very little about the man and his song writing abilities.
It took a bit of googling to find at least a little bit of information about Shades, so here comes little. Born in 1971, Shades – real name Rene Sehic – started his career as a guitar player, his previous bands are !Pride!, Sateria (where he called himself Rikki Shades) and Vegas Vampire before he switched to bass when he joined Pretty Maids in 2011. Me personally, I was interested in two things mostly about this record. How good a song writer is he? In Pretty Maids, he has only been credited as a co-writer on one song (“I See Ghosts”, Motherland (2013)) and how he gets by as a lead singer. As for the direction of the music, I already knew beforehand that this would be a more Rock album than Pretty Maids metal influenced Hard Rock.
Opener “The Brigade” is an upbeat, crunchy little Rock pearl – quite rootsy, in-your-face and with a straight-forward groove. Without being radio flirtatious or pop-cheesy, the refrain is damn catchy. It’s a tune with a good dose of live-feel and I can see this as a live-opener as well. A great song that bodes well for the following tracks. First single “Reckless” is a groovy pop-rocker with a Country feel where some melody parts of the verses reminds me some of Roxette’s “Joyride”. The refrain is one of those that etches itself to the brain after one listen and the whole tune screams “warm summer day”. An awesome song that deserves to be a hit. “Superheroes” is a Pop song with a 90’s swagger in uptempo and holds more hooks than a fisherman’s hat. With a slight happy-go-lucky vibe the melodies are direct and somewhat intense and once more, here’s a chorus that should have been all over radio in a just world. High single-potential. Great!
“Forever Girl” comes in a mid pace and holds a darker vibe based on acoustic guitars. It’s a pop-rock tune on the ballad side and while it’s not very airplay oriented, it’s still a memorable tune even though it’s melancholic and subdued. There is more Pop to come with “What Are You Waiting For (Rise)”. The verses here are more laid-back but also fat-grooved and punchy whereas the chorus is heavier and even a bit rough. A powerful and effective tune all in all, that leaves us wanting more. “Midnight In The City” brings on a meaty rhythm and a danceable groove below a poppy melody, hook-laden and with catchiness enough to sell. I smell a hit here. “The American Dream”, a song where Trumpland gets a bashing, thank you very much, is dark, heavy and apocalyptic sounding which creates a fitting atmosphere to the song’s topic. It comes in mid pace and treats us with a kicking and rowdy refrain. The song’s intro sounds like something Pretty Maids could have used. Very good.
The current single, the cover of Swedish 70’s Pop masters Secret Service’s “Oh Susie”, is quite impossible to resist. It was a huge hit when I was a kid and even though I didn’t like it then, I do now. You know, maturity and all that. The cover stands true to the original but Shades has heavied it up and given it a fatter Rock approach with more punch and a heavier beat. A very good cover – “Oh Susie” belongs to Shades now. “Little Footsteps In The Sand” is a cute ballad, a straight out Pop song, very smooth with a straight-forward melody and an enormously catchy refrain. But this is not sugary power-balldry at all – this song delivers quite a groovy rhythm as well. Very good.
“Pretty Little Lies” is Pop on the darker side and comes with a stompy rhythm where the tune rocks itself up as the song goes along. It sends my mind back to 90’s radio pop-rock and while the song sure is catchy enough, I’m not really there with the alternative touch it brings. Not bad though. “Centerfold” might not be a cover of J. Geil’s Band’s old hit but it do sports a helluva lot of hit-feel. It’s an upbeat and straight-forward pop-rock number with big melodies, shitloads of hooks and another chorus that just oozes of hit-potential. Shades closes the album with “Already Gone”, a pop-rock-country thang with a twang. It holds an uptempo pace with a vocal-melody that sticks like glue. It’s a decent song but it’s a bit mawkish and the melodies are a bit geeky, to be honest. Not bad but the rest of the album is way better.
If you expect to get a Pretty Maids sounding album when Shades releases his debut solo outing, you’ll be majorly disappointed because what we’re given here is Pop and Rock with touches of Country here and there – very American sounding stuff. But for all of us who don’t care about genres and only want good songs, we’re in for a treat because this album is full of them. Good songs, that is. Damn good songs. As a song writer, Shades sure knows how to create a striking hook and memorable melodies. As a singer, the guy is faultless without being exceptional, but that said, this album is not about impressing with vocal acrobatics, it’s about bringing feel-good and positive pop-rock tunes and a good time. Personally, I have a weak spot for this kind of music so I highly recommend this to all like-minded. Way to go.
1. The Brigade
4. Forever Girl
5. What Are You Waiting For (Rise)
6. Midnight In The City
7. The American Dream
8. Oh Susie
9. Little Footsteps In The Sand
10. Pretty Little Lies
12. Already Gone