by Sander Roscoe Wolff
September 22, 2017
Shave exploded onto the Long Beach music scene at a time when the city’s creative energies were at a zenith. They immediately became popular, winning fans with their masterful musicianship, legendary on-stage antics, and a clear understanding that music could be fun, and funny. Everyone was in on the joke.
Singer/lyricist/MC Dave Cornblum connected with guitarist Dave Shea in the early 90s and performed at the many local open mic events in town. Steve Cross (aka Elder D) was looking for a new project after The Lungpigs (Long Beach Cake), and was immediately taken with The Daves’ wit and swagger.
Although Shave has released several full length CDs, Shea and local studio wiz Antoine Arvisu recently unearthed a huge store of lost, forgotten, and obscure tracks that, with a bit of spit and polish, shined up pretty well and make up the majority of their new CD, High Alert. The process also sparked the recording of a new song, “Make Time Fly”, the album’s opener.
Make Time Fly starts with a sophisticated groove, some very clever guitar playing, and catchy lyrics. Once the song feels comfortably established, they hit you with a fairly long spoken-word section about aliens, apes, angels, reptilians, Annunaki and Pleiadeans. One might suspect that all this is tongue-in-cheek, but the jury is still out on that.
The second track, “Compensation”, is perhaps my favorite. It is an infectious toe-tapper and would sound at home on alt-rock or top 40 radio. It also has a killer guitar riff which, combined with a wonderfully positive chorus, makes the song an instant ear worm.
“Rancho Bernardo” is all about anthemic swagger, with Cornblum singing, “I’m more Rancho Bernardo than you are.” He’s also more Corona, Redlands, Long Beach, Fremont, Santa Cruz, Seal Beach, Signal Hill, and Los Alamitos than you are, in case you were wondering.
The album reveals the maturity of the band in songs like “Finally Get It”, which gazes at the reality of aging and death. “Could I Be Wrong”? is a bit more enigmatic. Musically, it has a cool acoustic vibe and a strangely vintage mono mix. The lyrics are abstract, but suggest that one need not follow the herd to be happy.
“Half Ape, Half Alien” posits the theory that, at some time in the distant past, alien beings came to earth and had some sort of sexual interaction with proto-apes. This union, they suggest, produced humanity. You may wonder where the evidence for these beliefs came from. In the first verse, Cornblum sings, “I learned it in my dreams.”
The album’s closer, “Crack Me Open”, brings everything to a head. The music is aggressive, precise, and emotional, and the words are perhaps the most honest and heart-felt of the 12 songs included on High Alert.
The album features a number of guest artists. Scott Devours, who toured with The Who and appears on their Quadrophenia: Live In London recordings, plays drums on several tracks. Michael Miley, best known as the drummer in Rival Sons, plays on one track, and Resident Genious and Tech-to-the-Stars, Bill Lanham, lends his massive bass tone to several tracks, too. Arvizu plays drums, percussion, and synthesizer, while Billy Blaze, Greg Ernst and Rob Fadtke play drums on several others. Heath Bennett of Delta Nove fame, adds some tasty percussion, while local darling and vegan rebel Rebecca Lynn lends her voice to Half Ape Half Alien.
Although there are some inconsistencies – not surprising since the tracks were recorded over nearly 20 years – overall, the production is excellent. The album was recorded at The Compound Studio, which was founded by Elder D and is now operated by legendary musician, producer and audio engineer Antoine Arvizu. Arvizu’s credits are too long to list, but highlights include Gloria Estefan, The Violet Burning, Sublime, Marc Ford, Crystal Antlers and Avi Buffalo. He deftly manages to preserve Shave’s raw energy and enthusiasm while making everything sound slick and tight.
For fans of post punk rock with a scrappy DIY aesthetic, great playing, and some fascinating lyrics, Shave’s High Alert is well worth a listen.
To learn more about the author, visit – www.sanderroscoewolff.contently.com