Shockabilly were a deranged trio of musical terrorists from the early to mid 1980s. They comprised ofEugene Chadbourne, Mark Kramer and David Licht and specialised in demented bluegrass-ish covers of famous rock songs, no cow too sacred. They also composed a lot of their own songs which, for me anyway, were always more satisfying than their covers. They toured with The Butthole Surfers(whom Kramer would later join when Shockabilly split) and The Fall, and were once sacked from Rough Trade Records because ‘they weren’t selling as many records as The Smiths’.
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 Chadbourneand 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.
except that he’s the king of weird facial hair. I dunno, is it mutton-chops or what?
Anyway, the Internet did give me this
which makes me very happy. It’s a photo from one of the liner-notes I managed to lose by carrying them to school every day. Which in turn is why I’m not sure who the guy second from the right is. It looks like Matt Darriau to me, but I can’t find any other pictures of him with a beard, so.
Also, I still miss Alicia Svigals and am sad she left the band before I got to see them perform.