The Shivas Aren’t Better Off Dead
What is it about Spring that makes lazy surf-pop so appealing? Maybe it’s the way the jangling guitars sound so much like sunlight. Or maybe it’s how the frustrations winter bring seem to melt in the reverb drenched vocals. Whatever it may be, The Shivas‘ latest, Better Off Dead, takes the best elements of surf-pop and spins it in their psychedelic kaleidoscope. If you’re looking for a Spring album, Better Off Dead is it.
The album starts with the title track. “Better Off Dead” takes the slowed down vibes of Santo & Jimmy’s “Sleep Walk” and fills it out with an aural largess that is absent from the original progenitors of surf-rock. The song does well to set the album off. It’s laid-back feel breathes a bit of dreampop haziness to The Shivas’ on brand of surf-pop. From there, it sweeps seamlessly into “Sad Sad Sorrow”–a sort of folksy ballad (think Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young) that riffs on Allen Ginsburg (be still my heart).
“Better Off Dead” and “Sad Sad Sorrow” offer a good sampling of the time of songs that make up the album. From start to finish, Better Off Dead doesn’t swerve to far from its aesthetic centers. That said, The Shivas’ ability to craft dreamy swirls of melody is enough to keep their listeners attention throughout the album.
One of my favorite songs of the album is “Maryanne,” which sits squarely in the center of the record. The song’s boot-stomping percussion anchors the song’s jangling guitar and ethereal melodies. “Maryanne” retreads the psyche-pop of The Beatles in the best way. With cloying rhymes and swerving melodic drifts, “Maryanne” is one of those songs that is the musical equivalent of walking through a field barefoot.
Better Off Dead doesn’t move far from where it started, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of the album. Better Off Dead is one of those albums that seems to celebrate the present moment as if nothing else exists.
The album’s penultimate song is the bluesy doo-wop diddy “Gun in My Pocket (Revisited).” Breathy vocals and loose harmonies give the song a campfire sing-a-long vibe while the guitar forward instrumentals do well to give “Gun in My Pocket (Revisited)” a structure under its haze. Melancholy without losing a sense of play, the song is perhaps the most epic and building of the album–a turn that does well to begin the end of Better Off Dead.
While Better Off Dead isn’t as upbeat and quick as White Out or You Know What to Do, the album sits squarely within The Shivas’ discography. It’s the perfect album for fans of slower burning surf-pop.