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The first three records from Shannon and the Clams were unadulterated nostalgia trips. A new listener could easily be fooled into believing that they were listening to a record from a long-lost '60s seaside rock group. But after having honed that style to a seemingly insurmountable peak on 2013's Dreams In The Rat House, it would seem that the Oakland-based trio have tried to make their voice even more their own with their latest LP, Gone By The Dawn.

Compromised of lead singer and bassist Shannon Shaw, vocalist and guitarist Cody Blanchard and drummer Ian Amberson, the band's general sonic formula is still about the same. Doo-wop, surf and garage psychedelic all remain major touchstones for the group's music.

The primary difference between Gone By The Dawn and past efforts from Shannon and the Clams lies in the production of the record. The distinctive conch shell reverb and vintage fuzz that covered each every track on prior albums, making the whole thing sound as if it had been plucked out of a bargain bin at your local record shop, has been all but eliminated. It is definitely a calculated move to place Shannon and the Clams more in the present than their previous work, making Gone By The Dawn their most personal record yet.

Given that much of the lyrical content is quite sad and heart wrenching, with more than a few reflections on loves that have come and on, this decision certainly makes sense. It allows the band's honesty and musical chops to stand up front and center, rather than obscured beneath a layer of nostalgia. As such, songs like 'Corvette', which deals with Shaw's longing for the car of a lover that never comes, and the mournfully whistle-laden 'How Long?' help the band find their footing with style and grace. 'It's Too Late' might be the album's best track, as it embraces their new production aesthetic on the instrumentation, but fuzzes up the vocals just enough to add a little more character to the song.

Unfortunately, not ever number on the record is so strong. The album's second half, in particular, begins to feel a tad forced and monotonous. The faux spookiness of 'The Bog' is disappointing and the choir of voices on 'Telling Myself' feels like it would have benefited from being on an older Shannon and the Clams record.

Gone By The Dawn is, at many turns, a lovely record. But it also seems to be a transitional record, as the group tries to find a more distinctive place for itself beyond '50s and '60s nostalgia. In this mission, there are more than a few successes, but a few bumps as well. Any reasonable fan will find this to be reasonable and, while the fourth Clams LP may not be the best, it represents an interesting turn for one of rock and roll's most interesting bands.

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