"Oh, the humanity!" These words were uttered by yours truly after listening to The Shiv's full-length debut, Short Order Crook. To be totally honest, the phrase was dancing around my head midway through the first track.
The combination of highly volatile hydrogen gas and a tiny electrical spark was all it took to create the massive explosion that brought the mighty Hindenburg down. Likewise, The Shiv’s own volatile mixture of annoying dissonance, non-existent compositional skills and amateur-league musicianship is sufficient enough to render Short Order Crook a total musical implosion.
The Joliet, Illinois outfit admits pouring everything they had (both financially and musically) into this Pixies-inspired effort—which, obviously wasn’t much of either. Short Order Crook is replete with mistakes, miscues and extremely poor production. However, most of these aren’t so major that they couldn’t be overlooked if the songs were good. The dismal opening track, “Under the Guise of Religion” utilizes—of all things—the Atlanta Braves/Florida State Seminoles war chant as its guitar-driven melody. The entire disc is nothing more than an experimental playground for guitarist Jeff Moore, who unfortunately has no concept of how to use the many effects he employs. It’s as though he just pushes buttons and whatever sound happens to result is the sound he uses. This is apparent on “Plague, Pox and Pestilence” and “Beirutabegah” where he attempts to conjure the atmospheric, haunting imagery reminiscent of early Pink Floyd, but fails miserably. His playing is just as lackluster. His funky, chunky rhythms rarely keep up with the tempo of the song, and his one-string leads are the epitome of a unseasoned player.
Short Order Crook boasts only one noteworthy track, the Tex-Mex rocker, “Farewell to Charms”. It’s here (and only here) that these guys seem to be firing on all cylinders—the rest of the album is misguided, chaotic and seemingly unrehearsed.
Admittedly, this reviewer tends to lean towards classic rock. And when I listen to an album like this, I must pause and ask, “did they really want it to sound like this? Is mediocrity the hip thing now? Am I missing something?” There is no substitute for musicianship, forethought and direction.
Sometimes we all have a tendency to look into the mirror and see what we want to see—instead of what’s really there. In the case of The Shiv, they may be listening to their music, but they’re not hearing what I’m hearing.