This Cincinnati band is firmly in gripe mode. The title and many of the lyrics on its latest, Sign the Line (Shake It), are bitchy references to the faded garage-rock trend. These guys were in the thick of the post-Strokes feeding frenzy of 2002-'03. The band played a groggy version of early '70s blues stomp, often on the same bill with pals the Greenhornes, who were tight with the White Stripes. One can only imagine the silly business-card-sliding and two-faced glad-handing Thee Shams have witnessed along the way.
Admirably, Thee Shams never heeded A&R weasels' requests to sweeten the sound and shed a few pounds. Then again, this bunch never really rose above the level of a bar band either. Like Thee Shams' Midwest compadres the Sights and Greenhornes, the band favors a midtempo, organ-heavy vibe. Thee Shams can bang out some good ragtime rockin' and eventually approximate a trash-can Cream. But basically, they're the guitar-shop guy's idea of a neo-garage band -- sturdy, proficient, faceless. It's often hard to distinguish the mostly mopey strumming and proud everyman stance from a plain lack of personality. So Sign the Line feels like a post-hype hangover, but the live show is still pretty drunken.