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Herb Eimerman, & I You

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I first became aware of Illinois popper Herb Eimerman through his collaboration with former Shoes-man Jeff Murphy. The duo released an album in the 90’s under the name the Nerk Twins (an early Lennon/McCartney pseudonym – for those not hyper-attuned to Beatles Lore) that was lightweight in spots but still provided a good reminder of why so many power pop collectors were fanatical about the Shoes back in their heyday. Off on his own, Eimerman does the Todd Rundgren thing by writing every song, multi-tracking his voice and playing all instruments. & I You (Jam Recordings) is the guy’s fourth solo release – and if the results of all this just fall short of purest Shoes divinity, I’m pretty sure you can’t blame the songs, many of which are waiting for a more plangent band of power poppers to fly ‘em into the stratosphere. (Are Teenage Fanclub still in bizness?)
Eimerman’s sonic approach is exemplified on & I You‘s opening track, “I Don’t Want to Know”: easy tempo pop-rock with melancholy harmonies, sly high guitar touches, and tentative lyrics (“If you’re coming back, that’ll be just fine.”) There are plenty of lyrical “if”s on this disc (two songs even have it in their title), which suits Eimerman’s boyishly contemplative voice. If his forbearers in the Shoes at times may’ve focused too much on songs about emotional betrayal, Eimerman’s protagonists often don’t seem sure enough of themselves to recognize when they’ve been screwed. “I feel crazy almost all the time,” he almost snarls in one of the disc’s snappiest tracks, but it’s the gap caught in that “almost” which keeps the disc so restrained.

“In the shadows I’ve found,” our one man studio band sings in one of the disc’s other highpoints, “a whisper is enough.” And if anything serves as an overall mission statement, that’s it. This is romantic pop-rock at its most ruminative, even if you’re not always certain exactly what the songwriter is pondering. (“When the big dark secret rages within with fame”?) Musically, pop lovers like me’ll pick up traces of Zion Illinois’ finest, not to mention bits of later Flamin’ Groovies and squishy folk-poppers like the Association. It’s the kind of thoughtful 60’s-indebted pop-rock, in other words, that doesn’t stand a chance in hell of getting played on the radio today – but thankfully seems to be surviving thanx to a coterie of cultish addicts, many of ‘em too young to’ve “outgrown” this sneakily hook-filled retro sound.
In the end, & I You‘s quiet and determinedly tuneful sound has spurred me into seeking out Eimerman’s three earlier solo albums. And also into wondering just what the heck the Murphy Bros. have been up to lately. . .
UPDATE: Since this review first appeared on Pop Culture Gadabout, I’ve received an email from Herb Eimerman on the status of the Shoes: “They have sold their studio with a lot of pain and sadness and as of right now they have gone their separate ways.” Definitely sorry to read that.

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.