Review Summary: Shiner's Lula Divinia: the band's magnum opus and a lost 90's classic
Formed in 1992, Kansas City's Shiner was an all-too-often overlooked band that fused various elements of alternative rock, post-hardcore, and math rock into their music - so much so that attempting to classify them under just one genre proves difficult. Their first full-length album, Splay
, somewhat showcased the band's unique ability to produce a sound that derives aspects from each of the aforementioned genres. However, as decent an effort as it was, it could not have possibly prepared fans for their monster of a follow-up album, Lula Divinia
The album is expertly crafted: the production is top-notch, and the attention to detail is almost immediately noticeable. The band produced the album themselves, and did so in such a way as to showcase each instrument's contribution to the record. This is a stellar record of intricate musicianship, well thought-out and deeply personal lyrics, and a combination of musicians that just mesh really well together. There is a synergy between them that cannot be ignored as soon as those drums kick the album off with The Situationist
, one of the highlights on the album. The distinction between each individual instrument, as well as lead singer Allen Epley's voice, and the manner in which each of them blend together seamlessly, is perhaps best showcased on this track.
At a lot of points throughout the album, the band tends to go on mini-jam sessions. This is actually one of the best features of the album; the sheer unpredictability and creativity that Shiner bring to the table will keep you coming back for more. There is always something to new to be heard, and for those with a musical ear, there are many treasures waiting to be uncovered throughout the album. The individual members themselves are each unique in their own way and offer different things to the band's sound. Most noteworthy, perhaps, is drummer Tim Dow. His innovative and dynamic drumming really brings a lot of the life out of some of the songs on the album. Two of the songs in the middle of the album, the back-to-back tracks Sideways
, best showcase Mr. Dow's talents.
This is not meant to discredit any of the other members of the band. Allen Epley's voice somehow seems to fit in each song, whether he is whispering or straining his voice to let out a scream. His songwriting ability is top-notch and it shines through with his guitar playing and lyrical content. Paul Malinowski offers some bass playing that not only adds another dimension to each song, but also flows seamlessly with Tim Dow's drums.
Although most people who have heard of Shiner usually talk about their later release, The Egg
, this album is a tighter, much more poignant record with a lot more to offer for the listener. Shiner's discography is all impressive, but Lula Divinia
, for me, is their magnum opus. Songs like The Situationist
, Jim's Lament
, and Cake
build up phenomenally into what can be only described as crazy jam sessions towards the end of each song. Shiner holds nothing back, showcasing their raw talent and songwriting ability for all to hear. Each song demands from the listener utmost attention to detail to fully appreciate its uniqueness and what it adds to the album as a whole.
starts out somewhat in-your-face, becomes bit more mellow towards the middle, and then finishes off with a heavier feel. Despite the fact that each song is unique in its own way, they all seem to somehow flow naturally from one to the next. On Cake
, the album closer, Shiner displays a masterful example of how to build up a song, and let loose musically towards the end - the distorted guitars and pounding drums pleasing any rock fan's ears. Epley ends by almost screaming out the words "left in my caaaake!" while his bandmates give everything they have left to close out the song and album with a bang.
Fans of grunge, alternative rock, post-hardcore, and even metal will thoroughly enjoy this album. Those who play guitar, bass, or drums will also find some innovative playing on here as well. A truly lost 90's classic worth checking out.
This is a review of the album with its original track listing. Later releases include the bonus tracks "Sleep it Off" and "Two Black Eyes", which by the way, are both excellent additions. However, Cake is such a fantastic album closer that it would be doing the band a disservice to review the album in any way other than the artists' original intent.
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