The Shivas Better Off Dead on LP
We're going to be digesting the 20th century in music for at least as long as it lasted. The Shivas – most frequently speaking the language of garage and surf and psych, pieces of Nuggets and Pebbles – have laid down Better Off Dead not with the raucous anarchy of the John Cusack movie of the same name, but instead with this lilting grace of static and radio waves from the past century falling all around, graceful and sweet, studying not the fuzzy chunks that fell off in the wake of the '60s psychedelic crisis.
Instead, this is something earlier, slower, not a "new direction," but just a natural branch off the same tree, familiar, and with some names carved in and scratched out of the trunk. Better Off Dead is like a hall of mirrors, but instead of seeing yourself everywhere you look, it's Roy Orbison, and then it's Les Paul and Mary Ford in the fogged glass, and you step outside, and the air is damp and you're lost in the woods outside Northbend, Washington.
There is a youngness and an innocence about The Shivas' voices, like The Lennon Sisters or Patience & Prudence. And there's Ray Davies in there too – a ghost in the mixing board, collecting dust, all old and full of hiss, rattled loose and flying around inside here. Better Off Dead marks a curve in The Shivas career – a different kind of record for old fans, and a perfect starting point for new listeners. Recorded at Dub Narcotic Studio (Beck, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Kimya Dawson), produced and engineered by Calvin Johnson and The Shivas.