It may not have been the hip thing to do at the time, but Shoes carried on the pure pop traditions of the Beatles and the Raspberries during the late '70s and early '80s with a charming innocence and execution unmatched by the more derivative bands lumped into the category "power pop."
Shoes were formed in Zion, Illinois, in 1975 by Jeff Murphy, John Murphy, Gary Klebe, and Skip Meyer, with the Murphys and Klebe all sharing songwriting duties. After one self-made and extremely limited album (only 300 were pressed), 1975's Un Dans Versailles, and the unreleased Bazooka (1976), they recorded their true debut for national consumption, Black Vinyl Shoes, in Jeff Murphy's living room and released it on their own label, Black Vinyl Records. Though it was barely distributed, enough critics and key people heard the record to start a word-of-mouth buzz. Eventually, Greg Shaw, the head of Bomp! Records, heard the record and arranged for the band to release one single, the brilliant "Tomorrow Night"/"Okay," on his label. A contract with Elektra Records soon followed, and the label released the group's next three textbook power pop albums: Present Tense (1979), Tongue Twister (1981), and Boomerang (1982). Despite the instantly accessible, catchy quality of the songs, the band was unable to achieve mainstream success -- among specialists, however, these albums, along with the debut, stand as the high points of the era.
Elektra dropped Shoes after the release of Boomerang and Meyer left the band. The remaining three retreated back to the home studio, returning with Silhouette in 1984, a more subtle, keyboard-oriented album released only in Europe. They disappeared for the next five years and popped up again in 1989 with Stolen Wishes on their reactivated Black Vinyl Records. Since then, Shoes have remained intermittently active, releasing Propeller (1994) and the live Fret Buzz (1995) as well as producing other likeminded bands for release on Black Vinyl. The collective efforts of Shoes in the mid-'90s led to a power pop revival in indie rock circles in the U.S., and the band stayed active working on reissue projects (including 2007's Double Exposure, a double CD of demos taken from the albums Present Tense and Tongue Twister), the occasional live show, and running their Short Order Recorder studio. In 2011, the group reconvened and began recording new tracks for an album. The finished product, Ignition, was released on Black Vinyl in 2012. ~ Chris Woodstra