The Walkabouts

Shimmers (A Best Of)

Release Date: 09/01/2003 · Format: CD · Catalog-No: GR 581

The word "shimmers" refers to reflected light. It refers to something that sparkles, without being upfront and obvious. Somehow we thought this was a good metaphor for our music. Over the course of 15 albums and close to 20 years of exsitence, we have done our best to avoid being obvious. Possibly at times we have been too elusive and shadowy. Then again, since we have never entirely figured out what we are looking for, we are still together, we are still chasing, we are still in search of sounds and words that will excite us.

This album is not our headstone, it is as the song says, a stopping-off place. It is a chance for us to share with those who are not familar with our catalog, some of the "towns" we have visited, and some of the "roads" we have taken.

The album is not meant to be a definitive retrospective or a complete history of the band. We gave up on that idea in the early stages of putting this album together. What we decided was that we would release an album that was like a good drive. It would have a flow, there would be plenty to look at out the window and there would be a few good places to pull over. But like the best road trips we wouldn't try and fit everything thing in. We would leave something for another day, for another drive.

1. Drown (Trail of Stars, Glitterhouse, 1999)
Some people say that "Trail" was our darkest and most claustrophobic album. Admittedly, band dynamics were tense, tragedy was swirling around our lives, and we were still hungover from our major label experience. Nevertheless, I saw "Trail Of Stars" then, and still see it, as the most "pop" of all of our efforts. "Drown" is a good example of that belief.

2. The Light Will Stay On (Devil's Road, Virgin, 1996)
When putting a "best-of" together, I suppose you are compelled to include your "hits." The only problem is that we never have had any, except for this song. In the cold winter of 1996 it cracked the top 40 in Germany, and charted in Norway, Belgium, Greece, England (#99 without the bullet) and Israel. We once heard it playing at a German truckstop squeezed between Falco and Toto's "Africa.”

3. Radiant (Ended Up A Stranger, Glitterhouse, 2002)
A groovin' ghost story, disguising itself as a song. I really feel like we found our feet again on the album from which this song is taken. We were able to capture both looseness and detail. We started to have fun again. Terri's no-nonsense drumming really shines on this one.

4. The Stopping-Off Place (Devil's Road,Virgin, 1996)
One of my favorite Walkabouts tracks, if for no other reason, because it was covered by my songwriting idol: Townes Van Zandt. We received the cassette with his version on it, just a few weeks before he died. It hit us hard that we never got to thank him. Listening to the song now, it is clear that I stole it from him to begin with.

5. Winslow Place (Ended Up A Stranger, Glitterhouse, 2002)
People have regularly asked me, "Where is Winslow Place?" Sadly, there is nothing romantic about the place itself. It is a rather nondescript,1970's apartment building in the Fremont section of Seattle. You could imagine the family from "Married With Children" living there. The secret of this song for me, is Glenn Slater's analog synthesizer orchestrations. He creates a deep sense of place and time.

6. Unwind (Nighttown, Virgin, 1997)
Someone from Virgin records described the "Nighttown" album as "the sound of a band committing suicide." I would guess that it is never a good sign when the record label invokes death metaphors in reference to your latest creation. As usual, we took a collective deep breath, and soldiered on.

7. Man From Reno (Train Leaves At Eight, Glitterhouse, 2000)
This is a beautifully ridiculous song, penned by the unlikely combination of Scott Walker, and the Bosnian soundtrack composer Goran Bregovic. It has become the melodramatic pinnacle of our live sets, and that is why it is included here. We all take great pleasure in the fact, that on this song, Carla sings the word "pussy."

8. Prayer For You (Nighttown, Virgin, 1997)
This lyric was written after our bass player at the time, Baker Saunders, came to a rehearsal quite shaken. He had found out that morning that a friend of his had died of a heroin overdose. The woman was the girlfriend of Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley, who years later died the same way. Baker himself fatally overdosed in the winter of 1999. Don't ever fool yourself: heroin truly sucks.

9. Bordertown (Setting The Woods on Fire, Glitterhouse/Sub Pop Europe, 1994)
One of the few pastoral moments, on an album that featured the loudest guitars of our career. In retrospect, I think we turned up the amps on "Setting" because a few of the songs were not quite up to snuff. I guess we felt, that if we made a big noise, nobody would notice. "Bordertown" has one of my favorite lyrics, and is not one of the aforementioned songs.

10. Poor Side Of Town (Satisfied Mind, Glitterhouse/Sub Pop Europe, 1993)
A 60's song by the American schlock singer, Johnny Rivers. We slowed it down to a funeral march, and the result was that the throwaway lyrics suddenly became heartbreaking. I remember hearing this one on a jukebox, in the bar above our rehearsal room. We used to order Jack Daniels on ice there, and then sneak the glasses down the back stairs to our subterranean room. After a few months of this, we had so many glasses, we could have opened up our own bar.

11. Till I Reach You (Trail Of Stars, Glitterhouse, 1999)
Written in Lisbon in the summer of 1998, and dually influenced by the stack of Bossa Nova CD's that I was listening to during the day, and the endless walks I took at night through the serpentine streets of the Alfama. Arguably, the most straight forward love song that we ever recorded.

12. Rebecca Wild (Devil's Road, Virgin, 1996)
Based on the doccumentary "Harlan County, USA" (which chronicles a miners strike in West Virginia) this song is about as widescreen as our sound ever got. Mark Nichols composed the epic string arrangement, and to my mind this is one of Carla's finest vocals. She completely and truthfully becomes the character in the song. I don't think a singer can aspire to much more than that.

13. Findlay's Motel (original: New West Motel, Glitterhouse/Sub Pop Europe, 1993. Shimmers version: Bruxelles: live with the Nighttown Orchestra, Glitterhouse mailorder, 2000)
Unlike the previous song, this song is not based on real events. It is western-noir-murder-fantasy. That said, a few months after the album "New West Motel" was released a guy named Findlay was murdered in a Seattle motel, just blocks away from the actual New West Motel, whose sign logo we had used for our album cover. One of the strangest things I have discovered, doing this all these years, is that sometimes LIFE imitates ART.

Chris Eckman, Ljubljana, July 2003

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Tracklist

1. Drown
2. The Light Will Stay On
3. Radiant
4. The Stopping-Off Place
5. Winslow Place
6. Unwind
7. Man From Reno
8. Prayer For You
9. Bordertown
10. Poor Side Of Town
11. Till I Reach You
12. Rebecca Wild
13. Findlay's Motel

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