Jules Mark Shear is living proof that talented pop musicians who prefer to remain on the fringes can maintain a successful career without cowtowing to the winds of fad and fashion. On his latest release, More, Shear delivers songs that are as fresh, vibrant, and punky as his first release more than 20 years ago.
Shear started his career with the L.A. country-rock group Funky Kings, released his first solo album in 1983, and along the way penned hits for Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles, and Matthew Sweet. His guitar “technique” offers insight to his musical roots; he plays left-handed with the right-handed guitar upside down tuned to open G and uses his thumb to fret high notes and bar upper strings. To call his method unique may be an understatement, but Shear has always made music his way and his method merely reflects his bent.
More showcases Shear’s songwriting talents. Sure, he sings the leads and plays guitar, but the songs are the stars. The overall sound of the CD returns to basics, with just drums, bass, and guitar accompanying Shear’s vocals. But the songs don’t need polish to sound complete. Some have been in Shear’s repertoire for years, but most are recent compositions. “Table and Chairs” would be at home on any compilation of great early-’80s punk or power-pop singles.
Although punk music may be so dead it’s making a comeback (i.e. Green Day), More, embraces the best do-it-yourself ethos of early punk. All it takes is will, forbearance, and a degree of talent to create artistically successful music.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.