Bad Vibes by Shit & Shine

Release date: November 2, 2018
Label: Rocket

Bad Vibes, good times. Craig Clouse’s colourful, cacophonous, carnival rolls back into town once again. As Shit & Shine‘s demented ringleader Clouse has journeyed from wild bludgeoning noise rock through to twisted electronic experiments while maintaining a steady output on labels like Riot Season, Editions Mego, Diagonal and Rocket.

This can seem confusing, even profligate at times – the video for ‘Yeah I’m On Acid’ that trailed this release arrived at exactly the same time as the Very High EP, a set of three extended plunderphonic funk jams that exist in a parallel timeline to this set. Although it does seem Bad Vibes is going to be the only full length release this year. I harbour suspicions that the sleeves, which tend to be lurid paintings, dog photos or stark graphics, carry some illuminative quality beyond whichever label is putting out the release but what they truly signify remains slippery. This time it’s a vivid aquamarine pool with palm trees and the ocean beyond. Personally, it kind of looks like hell but I’m not sure it’s supposed to engender bad vibes so much as contrast.

‘Bottle Brushes’ opens with some washed out Badalamenti jazz-noir, James Brown is cast as the backwards talking man in the red suit through samples from a chaotic TV interview that slowly pepper the track. Brown sings, claims “there’s nothing wrong” and gives a little chuckle that Clouse loops to sinister effect. It recalls his use of Diamond Dave’s burblings on last year’s ‘Excess, Laziness Egotism’, one of the stand outs from Total Shit!

‘Yeah, I’m On Acid’ builds brilliantly on that model with clips from Heavy Metal Parking Lot. This is one of those things that seems so obvious now it’s hard to believe he’s never done it before. Cheap, trashy, hedonistic and attuned to the liberating powers of rock ‘n’ roll Heavy Metal Parking Lot is like a foundational text for Shit & Shine’s whole ethos. If you’ve never seen it I highly recommend its charms to you. About 20 mins worth of kids getting wasted and playing up to the camera before a Judas Priest gig in 1986. It’s out there on the internet. Here various outbursts about drugs are chopped up over a twisted disco groove with infectious results.

As something of a spacer ‘Northwest Pool’ is an understated groove, the only samples submerged cut ups of squeally guitar solos. Despite getting stuck in a loop and collapsing inwards at the end it still flows nicely into the next tune ‘Mingler’. In fact the first half of the album flows from track to track in a way that’s unusual, if not completely new, jarring jump cuts and shifts of mood being more familiar on Shit & Shine records.

‘Mingler’ is great, a wonderful, elastic, bass pulse that sucks you in, it waits three and a half minutes before returning to the same James Brown interview as earlier. The Godfather of Soul is in good spirits, yelling out lines from his hits and most probably off his head on PCP. Brown was spiralling out of control at the time and had led police on a car chase across state lines leading to his arrest. This is just the sort of pop culture nausea that fascinates Clouse, you can completely see him turning Kanye’s recent white house MAGA gibberings into something similar.

‘7896’ is another sample free, deep hardware groove, possibly the first time Clouse has made a track like this with mangling or assaulting it in some way. After five or more years tearing up and tinkering with dance music forms these are among the first Shit & Shine tunes that actually make me dance around the house involuntarily when listening to them. Bad Vibes is ideal for that tailgate party you won’t be having ’til the other side of winter rolls round. ‘Back Stage Passes!’ opens up the boot of the car and lets us back out into Shit & Shine world. It’s noisier than anything else here and busier with more overlaid Heavy Metal Parking Lot dialogue including Zebra man’s rant about Madonna and Punk.

So, while they’re there if you dig down so far the record has been relatively low on actual bad vibes. The title track makes good on the promise though, switching out high spirits and low grooves for crunch and scrape, glitchy, minimal, horror atmospherics and comedown dread. It’s effective enough but doesn’t go anywhere and seems weirdly at odds with the rest of the record. From the most chilling moment it’s a curveball jump to it’s brightest, most uptempo ‘Sunrise Sam’ is a short neck-snapping loop spattered with distorting guitar samples and drums falling over themselves. The final track ‘At The Bar On The Rocks’ brings a deep bass thump beneath a tangled network of erratic percussive outbursts, a slight return to the more dysfunctional and fractured tracks of the last couple of records.

Perhaps he’s switched his meds. For the most part Bad Vibes sees a more spacious, more relaxed sound. The grooves are more comfortable and Clouse allows them to run longer before feeling the need to crash and burn them. The use of samples is more restrained as well, the diseased, kitsch overload less screamingly in your face. It’s a further refinement of the approaches on last year’s Some People Really Know How To Live and Total Shit! with improved results. Definitely more shine than shit.

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