[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
I’m probably giving away something I shouldn’t by writing about this album; fans of this band are not exactly numerous but we’re a jealous lot who guard this release quite ferociously. You’ve not come across them before? Hardly surprising; in the blender which was late 80s musical culture, Shy Reptiles came and went with little fanfare. For me, they were the first example of songwriting done properly. No excess chorus’ and no overly slick production tricks. Their panache came from musical ability and not the all too common demand for hits.
How we met is a funny coincidence, I was at Tower Records aimlessly perusing my way through the new releases section and came across their rather serious looking CD by happenstance. I could have gone to one of the listening stations with it but chose to just buy the damn thing and take my chances. The single for “High Desire” was also readily available, if only I’d purchased it I’d have gotten the complete picture as it contained two non-album tracks I still have yet to hear. No use crying over spilt milk, as they say, off home I went with the full length.
It was a decision which would prove fortunate because these fellows quickly took over the player in my parent’s home.
I found their video clips after the fact and later learned they were from England, surprise surprise; none of them looked particularly pleased to be on camera -the sleeve photo showed four figures more than happy to just blend into their surroundings- yet still their tunes were elegantly composed. This bunch had spent their time wisely, honing each composition until it could be refined no further. The reward for all of this? One album, two singles and then nothing. I’ve read there were live dates but nowhere near me; Fontana obviously had enough after realizing they had no cash cow on their hands.
So where is the Legacy Edition for ‘Shy Reptiles’? Probably tied up in all manner of legal-ese or more than likely not even under consideration due to the obscure nature of this release. I’m torn either way because while I’d love to hear more there’s a big BIG part of me which is content with what I have. The sheer perfection of “Sunblind” and the epic feel inherent in “So High” have stood the test of time admirably along with the seven other pieces along for the ride, why sully things?
Shy Reptiles – Shy Reptiles
Phonogram; Fontana Records, 838 701-1