Shoes: Present Tense (1979)
Their discography can admittedly make it tough to get into the band. As with other bands in the broad power pop framework, each album is highlighted by a few absolutely stellar, unforgettable songs, making them more a singles act than an album band, probably best heard on a compilation (they finally got a well-deserved retrospective a few years back, though I made my own mix). Their DIY approach leaves the original albums a little rough sounding, and when they did take advantage of the studio they ended up with some dated 80s production. (The 2012 collection 35 Years benefits not just from cherry picking most of their best songs, but from some refreshing remastering.) But none of this detracts from how great so many of the songs are.
They've eked out a few albums over a long period of time, spread out over a dynamite run of solid work in the late 70s and early 80s, a couple still decent 90s albums, and a surprisingly great reunion album in 2012 (Ignition, released around the same time as the compilation). 1979's Present Tense isn't necessarily the best of these (and, again, I think most people are better served picking up 35 Years than going with a particular album), but it's probably my favorite.
The album is front-loaded with three of the band's finest moments. "Tomorrow Night" is perfect pop, tuneful, with some nice guitar hooks; "Too Late" is even better, a similar vibe with some of the lovely harmonies tastefully deployed throughout their repertoire; and "Hangin' Around With You" taps into the band's heavier Cheap Trick/Knack sound, crunchy guitars and a fantastic percussion & guitar break, a hook you'd think would dominate a great single rather than just being chucked into the bridge.
It drops off a bit after that, which isn't to say the rest isn't perfectly fine and often great. "Now And Then" is upbeat fun; "Cruel You" taps into a rousing new wave beat, as does the fast-paced closer "I Don't Wanna Hear It."
The album doesn't stream on Spotify and is hard to track down (though Spotify does stream a collection of demos for this album and its equally excellent follow-up Tongue Twister).
Here's the video for "Tomorrow Night":