They Could Have Been Bigger Than The Bangles might have been an appropriate title for this collection of rare recordings by the Shivvers. Their career never really went anywhere aside from favorable reviews in niche magazines like Bomp, some local television coverage and a handful of opening slots for touring bands that stopped in their hometown of Milwaukee. They only released one 7” and they only made thirteen studio recordings, but they could very well be the best power pop band you never heard in your life.
On first listen, Jill Kossoris’ voice might make you think of Blondie or the Go-Gos, but the Shivvers’ biggest influence definitely seems to have been the Rasperries; you can hear it on most of the tracks, particularly “Hold On” and “Why Tell Lies.” Among the many songs the band covered live were a few by pre-Raspberries groups the Choir and Cyrus Erie, and two of the live songs on this CD are Eric Carmen covers. He apparently was a fan of the group and offered to produce an album once they got signed, but unfortunately it never happened. It’s really too bad because with so many incredible songs in the Shivvers’ repertoire I’m sure it would have been a success. The Left Banke seems to’ve been another touchstone for the band. The keyboard on “Life Without You” mimics their trademark harpsichord sound and “No Reaction” cleverly lifts part of its melody from “Walk Away Renee.”
Hyped2Death has already released a whole series of power pop compilations named after the Shivvers’ single “Teen Line,” and they’ve done a fantastic job in putting together this disc. Lost Hits From Milwaukee’s First Family Of Powerpop: 1979-82 includes the band’s complete recorded output: both sides of their 45, plus nine more studio recordings from 1980, seven songs from a live show in 1982 and two songs recorded by the reunited line-up in 1989. To top it all off, there’s a music video for the song “Please Stand By” and four live clips from a Milwaukee television performance. Even though more than half of the disc could be considered bonus material, all of the original 1980 recordings are absolutely terrific. If they had been released at the time, the Shivvers album would almost definitely have been one of the classics of the genre along with the Dwight Twilley Band’s Sincerely and the Shoes’ Black Vinyl Shoes.
By Rob Hatch-Miller