I know, I know. Britt Daniel is getting too much love on this site. It’s really not my fault, the man just doesn’t know how to put a foot wrong at the moment. Whether it was his behind-the-scenes magic on White Rabbits’ latest record or his own work with Spoon, the somewhat-recalcitrant indie rock star seems to have ideas coming out of his eyeballs. I say recalcitrant not because I believe Sir Daniel is shy. Rather it’s because even when he’s been songwriting hero for this long, Britt doesn’t come across as someone who really craves the attention of being a frontman. His voice is unique, but not aggressive, more like a warm jumper that you find in the back seat of your car than some shiny new coat you wear out to try and impress girls. But let’s face it, you always look better in the jumper anyway, because it fits you better. That’s why you’ve never thrown it out, and that’s why there will always be legions of people who absolutely go crazy for everything Britt Daniel does.
Divine Fits, then, is the man’s latest side-side project, and if you’re counting the sides he’s probably back at square one by now. It’s billed as a rock supergroup because there’s a guy from Wolf Parade in it and another guy from punk band New Bomb Turks there too. I find the term ‘supergroup’ to be arbitrary in a similar way to how I don’t really get the phenomenon of a ‘rap crew’ that D discussed yesterday with G.O.O.D’s latest. Essentially, a supergroup would exist if you had all of the members of all of those bands in the same room and on the same record. It would also sound atrocious. Just like Them Crooked Vultures is just three guys who play in other bands getting together to play music, so too are Divine Fits. There’s nothing especially crazy about it, people like Britt, Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, whatever, they played in a million bands before they got famous, often at the same time, and many of them still do. The idea that a professional musician has to be condemned to one band for all eternity means George Clinton would have had a very hard time finding personnel. As it turns out, Divine Fits just sound like another enjoyable band. Sorry if you already lit your fireworks.
‘Shivers’, for those outside of Australia, is woven into our musical DNA. It was written by Roland S. Howard when he was very young and was first recorded by our post-punk pioneers The Birthday Party, before they were even called that. On the original, the man singing the melody is Nick Cave, who has now survived long enough and hard enough to record and release whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He’s gone onto critical success, certainly moreso than Howard, who unfortunately died far too young and became a bit of an indie legend. He wrote ‘Shivers’ as a teenager, and if you listen to it properly, it’s kind of like the best teenage heartbreak song ever. I’ve always been in strife as a journalist here because Cave’s voice doesn’t really do it for me at all. I see the appeal, but it doesn’t work for my ears, so it’s nice to have someone who obviously has the respect to treat the song properly but also a proven set of pipes taking it on. Divine Fits don’t change much by way of the instrumentation or feel of this song from the original, and from the opening strains of ‘I’ve been contemplating, suicide’, you can tell they’re going to do a great job of it.
The best part of ‘Shivers’ (aside from, you know, all of it) comes in the chorus, which is simply one of the best to come out of this country in the 70s. Unlike Cave’s deadpan original, Daniel really goes for it in the style that many who have recently covered it have done. As the energy builds, Howard describes his baby who is so vain that she’s almost a mirror – what a great metaphor! – and then he hits that sweet spot that is the word ‘Spine.’ Daniel pulls the whole band in and they completely let this rip, fuzzing up the guitars and smashing those crash cymbals progressively louder with each repeat, as his voice bends and cracks under the pressure of the lyric. Given that there really aren’t that many chords in this song at all, the amount of dramatic effect you can squeeze out of a phrase it quite extraordinary, and Divine Fits do it tastefully while still bringing some of the raw emotion over from the original. Even if they’re not a supergroup, they do a super job, this group. I don’t think Howard would hate this at all.
Divine Fits – ‘Shivers’