Mass Shivers come across as the bastard son of 31 Knots (minus the math) and Q and Not U. Now wait, before you get excited, I did say ‘bastard son’. This Chicago three-piece has the artiness of those bands, but just aren’t captivating enough to put them anywhere near the league of their contemporaries.
This eponymous release is chock-full of ‘ok’ songs. There’s really just not very much staying power and it’s the type of album that I could see myself buying used, listening to it once, and then forgetting that I have it. However, with that in mind, there are moments where the band gets into a toe-tapping groove, but where the music succeeds, (‘Sick Alright’) it seems like the singing or lyrics fail, by not being engaging enough. The music, though, while very good, just isn’t enough to carry the full weight of this album.
The biggest complaint that I could offer with Mass Shivers would be with singer Ben Mjolsness. He’s not a bad singer, just not a particularly original one and there’s a strong tendancy to come across sounding like different people throughout this affair. ‘Swelling’ for example, which is available to stream via the band’s myspace page (http://www.myspace.com/massshivers), Ben sounds like the male version of Mary Timony of all people (no offense Mary, I love Ex-Hex). Then, on the closer ‘What Is Realistic’, he sounds like 31 Knots’ Joe Haege. I don’t know about you, but when I hear a band that reminds me of lesser version of another band, it makes me want to listen to the other band instead. So, thank you Mass Shivers for making me pull out It Was High Time to Escape.
What it really boils down to is that there are innumerable bands playing bland indie rock that really don’t need to exist, because they’re neither offering a fresh take on an old form, nor are they up to the level of the bands that they were influenced by, but I definitely don’t feel that Mass Shivers shouldn’t exist. This is a solid debut full-length and there’s clearly potential here, I’d just like to see them expand upon what they’ve learned and forge a new path. A better marriage between the singing and the instrumentation wouldn’t hurt either.
-avant gardening 10/21/05