Decades ago, in Northern California, genre-defying, post-punk meets folk, wunderkinds Shiva Burlesque emerged as a partnership between Torn Boys expats Jeff Clark and Grant Lee-Phillips. Now, like Lazarus, an old track from the long-defunct group has been resurrected, with the fitting title, “Paul Is Dead”. No time like the present to “get back” to finding new appreciation.
Following the death of their percussionist (…a drum machine), the two were joined by bassist James Brenner and (human) drummer Joey Peters. The quartet released a self-titled record in 1987 on Nate Starkman & Son. Greg Adamson was added on cello and fan Paul Kimble (credited as Dick Smack) replaced Brenner on bass for 1990’s Mercury Blues.
“Paul Is Dead was written by Grant and me in between our two albums, and when one of the major labels threw a demo deal at us we recorded it at the long-gone Hit City West studios on Pico. Paul (Kimble) had joined the band maybe a week prior. Somewhere in the mix is a traditional Persian stringed instrument called a tar…Lyrically, I was thinking about how, often out of loneliness, we look for a lens that’ll show us an invented truth, our own reality.”
The internal tension soon proved to be too much for the band, which led to a breakup. A powerful and graceful band that was too post-punk to be folk-rock and too folk-rock to be post-punk, their inability to fit in with the reigning hair metal and punk scenes of late-’80s Los Angeles also proved to be too great of a challenge. Phillips, Kimble, and Peters continued as Grant Lee Buffalo, and Clark went solo with Adamson and Brenner. Grant Lee Buffalo toured with major bands including R.E.M., Pearl Jam, the Smashing Pumpkins, and The Cranberries, and their 1998 single Truly Truly received extensive airplay in the United States.
Nevertheless, there remains a lovely, lo-fi souvenir of the era that preserves the band’s frenetic energy, a black and white video directed by Merlyn Rosenberg, who also directed Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”.
Watch the video below:
For more Shiva Burlesque gems, the band will be releasing some more material.