by Sean Jewell ::
Portland band The Shivas’ You Know What To Do turns surf rock revival into a ritualistic, rumbling madhouse. Nowhere else in the world, besides the Northwest, could surf rock and soul could be this dark, this creepy, and still this fun. The album jangles and bubbles like surf, but – perhaps due to influence from producer Calvin Johnson (Beat Happening, Halo Benders) – remains primitive, and deep.
The album opens with a recognizable Hank Marvin-esque vibrato, and a tom tom beat, that says, “we make surf rock.” Just as soon as you get the hint the band crashes in like a wave on the beach, with lead singer and drummer intoning in reverb-drowned harmony, “C’mon over here and let me show you something new,” and they do. The guitarists beat their instruments as hard as the dual drummers. The bass line keeps the whole thing moving with hip swaying effect. “Do The Crocodile” follows in suit, keeping the surf rock weird and cacophonous; one imagines old Fender tube amps, Jazzmasters, mop tops bopping along. Without missing a beat they break into “Ride On” with a scream from the drummer (a Shivas trademark I’m starting to love). Despite its wavy name “Ride On” is a confident kiss off, a jilted lover saying keep moving, and its rhythm has attitude that fits.
“Big Mama Casio” stands out as the grooviest jam, exchanging lead guitars and vibrato for a deep, groovy, piano and bass riff, and tom toms for hand claps. If you’re not clapping along by now, you might want to check your pulse. It’s here and on “Old Lightning Rod” that frontman Jared Wait-Molyneux‘s idiosyncratic vocals pass from garage good enough to Sonics greatness. He’s pitchy, he wails, he might be angry, but it makes me wanna scream too. On the album’s best track (that’s saying a lot, they’re all the best) “You Make Me Wanna Die,” the best elements of The Shivas come together in a soulful doo-wop surf rock song about . . . disappointment? And I love it. Dancing about their pain gets easier as the album bowls on, tripping into psychedelics on the relaxing “Beach Heads” and riffing on blue-eyed soul on creepy love song “Strokin Off.” Here the heat has turned up and the move has shifted from loveless to obsessed: “Stalking Legs” describes lonely anticipation under a positively wicked guitar riff. “And On” features an that electric piano I hope they’ll bring on tour, and closing song “Let It Happen to You” harmonizes wistfully from behind the band, and the album closes as gently as it was introduced.
Expect to feel creeped out, but like dancing, pumped up, and enervated all at once. Thanks to The Shivas, the fall has a perfect new album. You Know What To Do was recorded without the aid of computer at Olympia‘s Dub Narcotic studios and is out on K Records now.
The Shivas have been Portland’s answer to Seattle’s La Luz, and the two bands pair well at a live show. Catch them both at the Short Run Comix and Arts Festival Beach Party at Washington Hall in Seattle on November 15th.