CD Review: It Ain’t Easy Being In The Shivers

Local Cambridgeshire Artist
Rich Archer, charismatic front man of the Shivers, stares thoughtfully into his beer, and muses about songwriting. ‘The reason people always go "Oh, they don't write songs like they used to" is because they don't!'

We're having a drink in the garden of The Pickerel in Cambridge, the Shivers' home town. After chatting for forty minutes about the band, their influences, music that they like and bands that they can't stand, we've finally come round to the secret of the Shivers' success. Their songwriting.

‘Old songs were actually well written things, and well considered. They didn't just knock them off in five minutes. It doesn't matter how you arrange these songs, a good song is a good song, whether its played by one person with a guitar or by a big band. That's what we're about.'

True, the Shivers are a wicked live band that always make you smile; true, they have a great infectious up-tempo rock'n'roll acoustic sound; true, the front man has a voice like a cross between a young Mick Jagger and Captain Beeefheart, and is not afraid to use it - but what makes this album so special is the quality of the songwriting.

The writing goes back to a simpler era when songs had hook-you-in tunes, string-you-along middle eights, and knock-you-out choruses. An amazing song which demonstrates this most forcefully is Why You Gotta (Hang Around With Him)? When first heard it sounds for all the world like maybe a cover of a Goffin/King song, or an old Motown hit. But it isn't. It's an original, straight from the Shivers songwriting factory.

The Girl From Nowhere sounds like something John Lennon might have offered for Beatles For Sale. The bouncing rocker Shot To Shit has a typical Shivers great chorus: ‘I'm shot to shit, gone to seed, blown away -eeee -oooo', and, like most of the songs on the CD, it has a killer middle eight.

But as the man says, it ain't always easy being in the Shivers. Them Trousers tells of a girl who's taken everything, with a knowing nod to The Stones: ‘If she's not content with the shirt off my back, she wants the trousers off my skinny white behind'. Good TimesBadTimesHardTimesLonelyTimes is a classic song of heartache and loss: ‘You took away everything babe and disappeared like a ghost'. Behind the exhilarating swagger and uplifting sound of the band, a dark and bitter side stalks the songs as if the ghost has unhelpfully failed to completely disappear.

When you come away from a Shivers concert, your foot's tapping, and your face is smiling. But to enjoy this album at its best, put your feet up, pour yourself a large glass of bourbon, and be prepared to immerse yourself in a great collection of songs of love, lust and old-fashioned heartache.

Writer: Mike Boursnell - Cambridge Riffs