They say, don’t judge a book by its cover, the same can be said for record albums. But I am a sucker for great artwork, I’ve given terrible albums a shot simply because I loved the way it looked. On the other hand I’ve resisted others, simply because the cover wasn’t appealing. When it comes to The Shivas debut, Whiteout, the cover alone is enough to inspire me to call the album one of the years best. That’s my way of saying that I love, love, love the cover, with the band posed to look like the many armed Hindu god, Shiva.
Technically Whiteout is not a new album, but this vinyl release on K-records will gain them far more attention then they received from the cassette release on Burger records. It’s attention and notoriety that they sincerely deserve. This album is surprisingly mature, with a deep understanding of the music that inspired them in its creation.
Whiteout begins with a punch to the gut, that left me doubled over clutching my gut in the fetal position, grinning brightly through a tear streaked face. When Swimming with Sharks starts, it sounds as if the album is going to devolve into that scratchy feedback noise-crunch of 80’s punk rock. But, like a ship listing hard to port, it rights itself back in balance. The harmonizing vocals kick in, the drum beat and the guitar riffs oscillate, and it suddenly becomes clear that The Shivas have a firm grasp on addictive body moving music.
The most obvious and common comparison for the Shivas are the Black Lips, sure, I see that. But I heard the Velvet Underground, 1960’s surf rock, and Scratch Acid all pounding the hardwood at a 50’s sock hop. So often a retro sound like this comes off as completely insincere, little more than imitation crab meat sold in a plastic jar. The Shivas are completely genuine in the sounds they create. It’s not a gimmick, it’s a revolution.
What strikes me most about Whiteout is how willing the band was to throw a wrench in the machinery and let the song change direction, even if just for a brief and marvelous moment. Every time the chorus kicks in on Swimming with Sharks, the verse fires right back louder, harder, faster than it even seemed possible. Living and Dying like Horatio Alger is a journey that builds and builds, raising itself higher and farther then you ever expect it to. Just when I thought I’d caught onto The Shivas’ magic formula, they changed it on me, I never once got bored listening to this album.
No Waves, kicks off a trio of surf rock inspired songs with a demented reverb laid over the sound of dripping water. This isn’t the straight forward surf rock of La Luz, this is a grittier grind with sharp edges, but equally as satisfying. Kissed in the Face is slower and less harsh, while Manimal is shot of sapphire blue water the courses through your veins, it impossibly gets better and better.
Mixed throughout our these syrupy sweet slow dances, set in a dimly lit gymnasium decorated with pastel streamers. Pink poodle skirts are gingerly touched by the white leather arms of varsity jackets, all enshrined in a throwback to the “good ole days.” The albums closing track, Paradise is so innocent and perfect, it never pretends to be anything other than what it is, which is true for all of Whiteout
The albums most obvious and arguably its best feature, is its incessant calling for you to move your body. Every song begs to put you in motion, practically controlling your limbs like a puppeteer. Your feet will tap, your hands will clap, and you won’t be able to keep your body from rocking back and fourth.
Technically this album is not brand spanking new, but the shine on the vinyl is as bright as ever. Whiteout is truly a defining album for 2013. You can find Whiteout at krecs.com, or most other digital retailers.