SHIVA BURLESQUE Mercury Blues (Delta Recordings)

Famous, if at all, for being the band Grant Lee Phillips was in prior to forming Grant Lee Buffalo, on their second and final album, originally released in 1990, Shiva Burlesque play Americana so gristly that you can practically chew it. Their music suggests U2 heard from the other end of the auditory telescope, The Velvet Underground gone country and western and the Pixies with a sense of humour bypass, not a particularly attractive or comfortable mix of styles.

On “Who Is The Mona Lisa?” guitars jangle, strings sigh and there’s at least a distant suggestion of something beguiling buried deep beneath the bombast. Similarly, the title track finds restless, questing ghosts roaming endless open plains of misfortune, and “Chrome Halo” is potent and mysterious. But these moments of quite goodness are undermined by long, barren stretches that are frankly unremarkable, such as the itchy, fidgety “Sick Friend” (although its droning string coda is kinda nice) and the deliberately thuggish swagger of “Chester The Chimp”. All of which takes the tragedy out of the suspicion that “Mercury Blues” is the kind of album that’s more frequently lionised than listened to.