CD Review of More by Jules Mark Shear
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Jules Mark Shear: More

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

ou gotta believe Jules Shear is one frustrated individual. He’s had no shortage of hits as recorded by others – Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night” and the Bangles’ “If She Knew What She Wants” for starters, not to mention collaborations with fellow pop pundits like Matthew Sweet, Roger McGuinn and Allison Moyet. Yet when it comes to his own individual attempts… well, suffice it to say he’s never given Madonna cause to peer over her shoulder. That’s a shame, too; Shear’s released numerous albums over the course of the past three-plus decades, each an example of flawless pop perfection, the kind of craft radio once admired but now finds in short supply.

One reason Shear’s failed to gain traction may be due to the fact that throughout his career he’s constantly jumped labels, starting out with the majors – EMI, Arista and Columbia – and then embarking into a game of musical chairs that had him revolving through a series of indie operations. It’s been a couple of years since his last release, but now he’s back – with a new and better label, Funzalo, and a middle name added to his moniker. He’s also enlisted an impressive crew of collaborators, one that includes veteran producer/engineer Sean Slade (Radiohead, Hole, Dinosaur Jr.), guitarist Anthony Safferty, bassist Paul Kolderie and Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione.

Still, what hasn’t changed – and happily so – is his instantly accessible sound and penchant for pleasing and punchy melodies. There are some concessions to modern music – in the rhythmic dance grooves of “The Tide had Turned” and the haunting, hypnotic haze of “We Said Goodbye” – but mostly Shear opts for catchy choruses and riveting refrains. That’s apparent at the outset, in the snappy, ricochet assault of “I’m Coming Back” to the kinetic rhythms of “Table and Chairs,” the propulsive tempo that steers “Sea Shell” and the steady, assertive stance of “More.”

Those are only the more obvious examples, but there’s more to More besides -- for example, the billowy ballads like “Stood Up To Leave” and “You Might Show Up,” the album’s seductive send-off. Shear still has a knack for delivering pointed observations, and when he croons, “No sense reaching down below the surface / You don’t do anything except on purpose,” there’s another obvious conclusion to be gleaned here as well. Thirty years on, he remains at the top of his game, and it’s way past time the public started paying some attention.

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