On Dreams In the Rat House, Oakland’s fiercest contemporary purveyors of scuffed-up early-’60s rock ‘n’ roll jump to the relative big leagues of the Sub Pop imprint Hardly Art without sacrificing any of their rickety retro charm. Shannon and the Clams’ third album sticks to the live-sounding, punk-roughed doo-wop, girl group and surf rock throwbacks that made 2011 predecessor Sleep Talk the perfect cheap-beer chaser. It’s a narrow but fertile niche, and this trio goes after it with devilish bravado.
Bass player Shannon Shaw, also of Bay Area kindred spirits Hunx and His Punx, shares lead vocal duties with guitarist Cody Blanchard, and their loose, comfortable rapport — along with the emphatic, conversational drumming of Ian Amberson — helps keep the shag-carpet and wood-paneled consistency from getting too same-y. So does the fact they’re willing to change up styles pretty wildly within their chosen set of inspirations, whether the only-sleeping psych-rock of Blanchard-growled “Bed Rock” or the uptempo rhythm and blues (in its original sense) of Shaw-belted first single “Rip Van Winkle.” If the album title recalls HP Lovecraft’s haunting short story Dreams in the Witch House, well, you expect a bit of eccentricity from any friends of rabbit-costumed garage-rocker extraordinaire Nobunny.