Mass Shivers CD review by Howard Wuelfing

Music Reviews
Mass Shivers CD review by Howard Wuelfing
Jan 16, 2008, 19:05

Mass Shivers - Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy

MASS SHIVERS Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy CD

The difference between “artsy” and “arty” is patently interesting and both can be a vital break from a tedious orthodoxy. For me, “artsy” connotes an affectation of flamboyance, arch stylization, conscious artifice, ala Johnny Ray, Roxy Music, Japan, Decemberists et cetera—a decadent shot of absinthe. “Arty” represents an obvious, deliberate conceptualization, usually involving a simultaneous simplification and exaggeration of conventional elements of style that renders the typically utilitarian and invisible obtrusive and didactic, whether it's a matter as basic as the intro-chorus-verse-chorus structure, the function of a guitar part, the intervals used in setting up vocal harmonies, and so on. Wire, Mission of Burma, minutemen, and Feelies would be prime examples.

Mass Shivers are exemplars of the latter. Working with the most basic of instrumental formats—guitar, bass, drums and singing—they have created a shocking yet insistently accessible transformation of modern rock 'n' roll verities.

The two crucial factors are the use of bass and drums, especially the former. The bass guitar lines are pointedly bulky, loud and dense.  They render fat, glowering chords or plush, fuzzy riffing, effectively filling the space rhythm guitar normally would. Meanwhile, the drumming is notably loose-limbed, spare and in-the-pocket and controls all the metric construction work that usually is divvied up between percussion and bass. All this frees the guitars to be as pointillist as they'd like. The rhythm playing is terse, semaphoric chicken-scratch leads and spat-out chordal abstractions.

Add to this mix hearty, shouted, unison singing and you wind up with an end result that kicks butt and tickles the skull simultaneously. [Sick Room]

-Howard Wuelfing

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