Folk N Rock
Spotlight Album: ‘Triumph Returns Again’ – Shazy Hade

Oh boy, do I have a treat for you guys with this spotlight album. Today, I’m looking into an album with one of the most incredible backstories I’ve ever heard. Shazy Hade, a band out of Madison, Wisconsin, is releasing a new record tomorrow – but here’s the twist: these recordings are actually over 15 years old and were only recently rediscovered.

You see, Shazy Hade is made up of members from two separate bands, The New Recruits and Huma Machine. This album, their third full-length, was originally recorded all the way back in 2008. But tragedy struck when the recording studio was unexpectedly demolished, with the band completely unaware.

Amazingly, after clearing the rubble, a single CD of the session was found, packed away and forgotten in a basement box. It’s a truly unbelievable story, and today, I’m going to be taking a first listen to some of the tracks that were almost lost forever. And it was all done by luck, and the magic and editing and mastering by Justin Perkins of the Mystery Room.

The opening track “Time Runs” is a real attention-grabber, a groovy throwback to classic psychedelic rock that feels utterly authentic to this band’s DNA. The bassline is an absolute star of the show, weaving its magic with a cool, infectious groove. I find myself completely hooked, my head bobbing involuntarily to it.

But the bass is just one element in this mix. The guitar work is really cool as well, its energy amplified by the clattering percussion in the background. It’s this collision of sounds that gives the track a rebellious punk rock edge, a welcome jolt here that goes right through the haze.

Now this song really threw me “Time Runs” throws you headfirst into a sea of lyrics that are as perplexing as they are fascinating. It’s like a fever dream put to music, a stream of consciousness that paints a series of bizarre self-portraits. Can’t help but think of some Creedence Clearwater Revivals work. From a “fat hippopotamus cat” to a “lawn of trumpeter swans,” the words tumble out in a chaotic dance of imagery that is kinda out there in terms of interpretation. It’s a wild, untamed ride of pure imagination.

The song’s shape-shifting identity continues, morphing from a “pig, most notably big” to a “dog, some lizard, some frog.” Each new persona is more outlandish than the last, and there is like this parade of creatures and characters that seem to spring from right out of the surrealist dream. And what I like about this, is the lyrics are off-kilter –but they embrace the nonsensical with open arms, finding a strange sort of freedom in the absurdity.

Ultimately, “Time Runs” doesn’t ask to be deciphered, it simply is. It’s a huge mix of thoughts and images, a celebration of the nonsensical, and a one great example to the joy of creative expression without the need for rigid meaning. And maybe, in its own way, that’s the whole point. Time marches on for all of us, and within that shared experience, there’s room for every weird and wonderful flight of fancy.

“Alien Babies” is a straight-up jam. The main guitar melody is catchy as can be, and there’s a second guitar that pops out of the left speaker, which will wake you up if you’re playing it loud (and you should be). It’s unexpected and cool, adding a whole other layer to the sound.

I’ve already mentioned the punk rock vibe on this album, and “Alien Babies” definitely fits that mold. It’s short and sweet, but the melody is super infectious. This song could easily find a home on any punk rock playlist. It’s got that classic energy, but with a psychedelic twist that makes it unique. The hooks and style remind me a bit of the Ramones, if they had a psychedelic phase. It’s a catchy, rocking tune, and fun.

The lyrics of “Alien Babies” are just as eccentric as the music itself. They’re a mishmash of bizarre imagery and seemingly unrelated ideas, giving you a strange and surreal picture. There’s a darkness hinted at in some lines, a sense of unease that contrasts with the upbeat tempo. The chorus is catchy, which again, goes great with the music that I also spoke about being super catchy.

The lyrics also touch on the idea of outsiders and misfits, I guess it’s like an attitude towards anyone who doesn’t understand or appreciate them, or like their music. But you know what, I agree with them on this one. It is a blast.

When May Returns” is an unexpected gem, a deep cut that might fly under the radar for some listeners. It’s got this folksy, Steve Earle-ish vibe that sets it apart from the rest of the album. There’s a unique sound in the background that I can’t quite place – maybe percussion, maybe some kind of string instrument being played in a different way – but it adds a really cool texture to the song. It’s an electric track, but it feels almost stripped down, like an acoustic song in disguise. It’s a bit of a mind-bender, but those who get it will definitely appreciate the unexpected twist.

The band’s psychedelic tendencies still shine through, but there’s also a touch of the Pixies in the vocal delivery. It’s impressive how much they can pack into a song that’s barely two minutes long. They don’t need to drag things out to that radio friendly 3:30 mark to get their point across, and that’s part of what makes this album so refreshing.

Now, as best as I can tell, this song seems to be about the cyclical nature of life and the passage of time, using the changing seasons as a metaphor. There’s a sense of inevitability, an acceptance of the fact that things grow and decay, that beauty and vitality are fleeting.
The mention of figures like Zappa and Zeppelin might represent artistic inspiration or cultural icons, hinting at the idea that even legends fade over time, maybe?

And it’s just like there is a sense of wonder and curiosity about the forces that govern our lives. There’s a bit of existentialism here, thinking of deeper questions about existence and purpose. Ultimately, the song seems to offer a message of embracing the present moment and just seeing the beauty and potential in everything around us, even as we acknowledge the impermanence of it all.

“Black Earth Girls” takes the album into a little bit of a detour, with a laid-back groove that is a bit of a change up from the breakneck pace of the previous tracks. But even with this shift in tempo, the song still manages to retain that unmistakeable punk rock spirit that’s been a constant thread throughout the album. The song’s structure, the arrangement choices, and even some of the lyrical phrasings all harken back to that DIY energy of classic punk bands. In this case, the influence that shines brightest is the Dead Milkmen.

But “Black Earth Girls” is not just a punk rock throwback which I find myself speaking a lot about here. There’s something undeniably Californian about it, a sun-drenched vibe that gives the golden era of West Coast rock. It’s as if the band has somehow channeled the laid-back cool of that time period, even though they themselves formed from the heartland of Wisconsin.

And I also better not forget those backing vocals. Those harmonies are the icing on the cake, an extra layer of sweetness that makes this song one of the most infectious on the entire album. At least for me anyway. I find myself humming this one in my head a lot.

“End Days,” the album’s second-longest track at a whopping two minutes and sixteen seconds, is a noticeable shift in gears. It’s smoother, more controlled, almost tranquil compared to the frenetic energy of the earlier songs. The guitar work is still prominent, but it takes on a different quality this time around.

What really grabs me here is the vocal delivery. When he delivers lines like “forecasters speaking about the end days,” there’s this subtle double-tone effect that’s almost like a siren. It’s not a full-blown alarm, but it creates a similar sense of warning, a feeling that something important is happening.

As the song progresses, the intensity gradually builds. The guitar work becomes more prominent, and the synth elements really come to the forefront, adding a layer of cosmic energy that complements the lyrics about impending doom. It’s a great listen, a track that manages to be both unsettling and strangely beautiful.

As a reviewer, I always listen to an album from start to finish on the first go-around, paying special attention to how the opening and closing tracks frame the experience. In this case, I’m going to break tradition and keep quiet about the final track. Let’s just say it’s a hilarious cherry on top, a fitting way to wrap up the album’s wild ride. Trust me, it’s worth experiencing for yourself.

“Triumph Returns Again” from Shazy Hade is, without a doubt, one of the most unique, interesting, and downright amazing stories of a record being brought back to life that I’ve ever encountered. I’m so grateful we get to experience these songs in this way. It’s a seriously cool jam record that’ll hit with alternative rock and psychedelic fans, but I have a feeling it’s going to find a real home with the punk rock crowd as well. If you’re looking for something different, something with a story, and something that just plain rocks, I can’t recommend this one enough.

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Scott