Despite its reverence to hits and AM radio hooks, pop/rock has always made room for those who would give it an artistic bent. Of course, there’s its golden days, when Beatles’ chart-shattering and Pet Sounds‘ classic sheen dragged popular music (and culture at large) to the next logical stage of experimentalism. Several modern day groups, like Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective, carry this flag forward. Chicago’s Mass Shivers is one of these forward-looking bands, and their new sophomore release, Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy, sent their pop music through art school, where it graduated with something decidedly novel but still catchy.
With occasional incursions of classic rock, touches of funk/dance rock, (more by the way of James Chance than George Clinton), and melody and vocal lines that might give Rob Crow a run for his money, these guys have “infectious” down. Then there’s the out of control tribal drums on several of the band’s songs, including the group’s finest and catchiest, “Because The Sun”. It’s like you’ve been dragged into a dance party thrown by ADD kids buzzing on Ritalin. It’s a frenetic mix of wild excess and complete unpredictability and strangeness; you’re there just to see what will happen next.
If you decide to stick around, you’ll find that beneath their outer core of “craziness,” there’s some genius. The band seems to have the gift of making unpredictable experiments fit alongside commonplace sonic cues. As proof of this innovation (some might say madness), they use a guitar instead of a bass to power the rhythm section through the exciting opener “Womanzing Metal Studs”. Also, whether intended or not, lead singer Brett Sova sounds fresh out of the 70s, like Marc Bolan of T-Rex with a little of Iggy Pop’s excess, a combination that slowly proves itself a concise distillation of the weird-yet-recognizable line the band constantly tows.
Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy blazes by at just under 29 minutes, leaving a trail of haze within which you’ll probably find yourself stumbling around; you aren’t really sure what happened, or maybe didn’t even take it all in, but you probably liked it- it’s pop. Neither too in love with itself nor overtly, excessively experimental, Mass Shivers have mixed a near perfect cocktail of unorthodox choices and environmentally sustainable pop hooks.