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Heaven Review

by William York

Shockabilly was never the most stable-sounding group, but Heaven feels especially scattered and fragmented. Maybe that is because this was their last album, and their members -- specifically Chadbourne and Kramer -- seemed to be drifting apart. In the past, the two tended to share writing credits, whereas here, three of the songs, including the catchy "Pity Me Sheena," were written (and performed) entirely by Kramer. Six of the others were written solely by Chadbourne. His trademark sense of humor is still intact on these songs, but with several of them (most notably "How Can You Kill Me, I'm Already Dead" and "She Was a Living Breathing Piece of Dirt") the humor is darker and more submerged than usual. The group also lends their beyond-irreverent cover song approach to tracks by John Lennon, T-Rex, and Willie Nelson, the last getting an especially bizarre (if a tad self-consciously silly) treatment thanks to some heavily processed lead vocals. As with the group's two previous releases, Colosseum and Vietnam, this music fits mainly into the realm of experimental psychedelia (rather than rockabilly or psychobilly, as the band name might suggest), comprising a mix of warped '60s psyche rock inspired songwriting and hazy studio collage trickery. Also, like the aforementioned albums, Heaven is not entirely consistent. However, the songwriting is a little stronger here (even if the group makes that hard to discern with their deconstructed production tactics and seemingly haphazard performances), making this album an especially good representation of the studio-based side of Shockabilly.

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