Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gimme Some California Love, Dana and Lauren!

Shake It Shake It Baby

It’s the middle of summer, so hot that when you climb in your car you say ouch ouch ouch as you touch the steering wheel with your fingertips. You roll down your windows, hit the gas and off you go. What to play? Perhaps it’s early evening and you secretly want to blare Tupac’s “California Love” out the windows but worry that you’ll look like a gangster wannabe if you do so.

Never fear, y’all because Malibu natives Dana and Lauren Shankman have just put out a bluegrass version that kicks ass.

Now, The Inky Jukebox is aware that this sort of thing is ripe for all kinds of “no you di’int” headshaking, and indeed, a lot of commentary online seems to have veered into “Tupac’s not dead; he’s in the Federal Witness Protection Program” area, but we give credit where credit is due here, and we like it a lot.

The identical Shankman Twins, Dana and Lauren, are smokin’ hot blondes whose vocal harmonies are the stuff that makes recording scouts wet their pants. But don’t let their giggly prettiness put you off; these gals are seasoned pros who have played and toured for years, often with their little brother Michael on bass, and they’ve stood on the Opry stage many a time. They seem to have had an identity problem however. At first, they were the abysmally-named The Shankman Twins, which sounds like a clip on PornHub. (An Inky Jukebox Top Tip: don't be tempted to include the word "twins" in the name of your band, ever, especially if you are, in fact, identical twins. Trust me: we can figure it out already.)

The three siblings tried being an abysmally-named band called Malibu Storm for a while and put out a cover of Def Leppard’s “Photograph” that was mildly successful (later, a young hussy named Taylor Swift came along and sang it with Joe Elliot et al). (Another Inky Jukebox Top Tip: never use the words "Malibu" or "storm" in the name of your band. It will make you sound like one of Barbie's collectible outfits.) This was before The Band Perry cornered the whole three siblings thing. If anyone’s gaydar starts beeping when you see the boys in that band, then young Michael will make it howl like a tornado siren. He has been wisely dropped in favor of his sisters stepping out as a duo, the abysmally-named Dana and Lauren. This just sounds like everyone gave up and ran out of ideas at a meeting. One of the whole points of being in a band in the first place is that you get to pick a great name. The Inky Jukebox suspects that The Shankman Girls was their father's idea, that Dana and Lauren was their Mom's, and Malibu Storm was their brother's. At least two million people named “Dana and Lauren” exist on YouTube, which is going to present a problem, y’all. This is not a problem The JaneDear Girls have (whose actual names are Susie and Danelle). Just sayin’.

What the girls are good at is looking like centerfolds (with cleavage that can only be “born” in Malibu) and singing bluegrass. This can be seen to great effect on this little bit of video when they take on Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High on that Mountain” (pity about the low sound volume, and the stair rails look like they’re sitting in a crib, which is creepy).

They turn out to be awfully good at turning a West Coast rap anthem into a viable bluegrass song, no easy task. The banjo and fiddle treatment is a revelation. Try giving it a listen without the visuals, and without thinking about the original. Good, yes?

Speaking of visuals, the official video is a little OTT: filmed at a mansion in Bel Air complete with a pack of daisy-dukes-sportin’ hoochies and acrobats etc. The hay bales on the mansion lawn are a little forced, and by “a little” I mean completely ridiculous.

Dana and Lauren have a new self-titled album coming out featuring ten original songs plus “California Love.” One wonders, then, why this cover was released as their single. Is it because as a recognizable song it will hook people in? If so, it will act as a bait-and-switch, because if the songs on their EP are anything to go by, this is music for tweens into unicorns and rainbows, not bad boys looking for sex on sticks.

We also worry about the design of their record cover; this looks too much like a second-rate fan pic and the font they are using (Bleeding Cowboys) is being used by everyone, everywhere. These are good looking girls; they need marketing help NOW. Their online presence is also oddly amateur. 

This, snapshot above, for example, is from their Vimeo page, which is less than a month old. It is either an unfortunate still from the video, or a very clever one: you decide.

Somewhere, Tupac is riding a lawnmower in suburbia (or the Great Beyond, which some could say are the same thing), one hand clutching an ice-cold coke, the other an iPod. I hope this song comes on and makes him bop his head a little bit and smile.

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