Shivering has a been a staple inspiration in British guitar music down the decades. From Patrick Fitzgerald’s abstract wordplay about women defrosting and “sunshine orange skin” to Chris Martin’s sinister lyrical undercurrents in Coldplay’s breakthrough era, these little involuntary bodily reactions have been a perennial focus for musical musing. Perhaps it’s the duality of the shiver; the anticipation versus the fear, the warmth of summer sunshine against the cold of the winter wind?
Whatever the reason, the good news is that China Bears are back, adding their contribution to the trembling canon with the delicious and emotional Cold Shivers, the latest instalment towards their e.p. I’ve Never Met Anyone Like You which is due to finally drop in August.
“[Previous release] Sunday [was] a simply breath-taking observation of millennial masculinity, rites of passage, Englishness and the perils of facing down depression in the midst of it all.”
Previous releases Stay For Good and Sunday have already shown the versatility of these Bears; carefully balancing the lyrical and the musical with precision, each given the same importance, and delivered with an attention to detail rarely shown by bands still in this relative infancy of their career. The juxtapositions of Stay for Good sold well to lonely adolescent bedroom-dwellers and the mosh pit alike, while China Bears threw down the anchor permanently with Sunday; a simply breath-taking observation of millennial masculinity, rites of passage, Englishness and the perils of facing down depression in the midst of it all.
Cold Shivers continues to dab extra colours on China Bears’ bigger picture. It’s an emotion-wrought waltz, which oscillates between strident guitar chords and a sense of vulnerability so strong that at times you almost worry that the song might fall and shatter into pieces. China Bears have established that knack of creating precious cargo; songs that you can’t help but immediately care about, that take you by the hand down a tricky path with nothing but a hope that everything will somehow be all right. “I didn’t mean to throw everything up in the air to see what would come down” sings frontman Ivan, all the while knowing that now and again those life-changing moments simply must be grasped; when sticking is no longer an option and to twist is not so much a gamble as an inevitability.
“The genius of China Bears is apparent in this precise deftness; the confidence to leave space in the music to allow it to breathe, for a breeze of emotion to come in and swirl around in it.”
Much like its predecessor Sunday, Cold Shivers is in no rush to unfurl; it’s a melodic affair which ebbs and flows organically. The genius of China Bears is apparent in this precise deftness; the confidence to leave space in the music to allow it to breathe, for a breeze of emotion to come in and swirl around in it. Trickles of guitar tumble in an out of the song, and when they appear they are like chancing upon little waterfalls, beguiling and refreshing, pulling the listener even further into the enchantment. “Did you mean all those things you said last night?” asks Ivan, and you pray he won’t end up disappointed.
China Bears are a band on the cusp of potential greatness. We’re still a little scared because we’ve been hurt too many times. But we can’t help ourselves. Falling in love doesn’t often feel this special and these boys are worth it.
Cold Shivers is out now on Fierce Panda Records.
Words: Iain Dalgleish @fishski
China Bears tour the UK this autumn:
4th September – Sebright Arms, London
25th October – Esquires, Bedford
11th November – Latest Music Bar, Brighton
17th November – Cavern, Exeter
18th November – Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham
19th November – Crofters Rights, Bristol
20th November – Boileroom, Guildford
21st November – Tiny Rebel, Cardiff
22nd November – CODA, Colchester
23rd November – Bermuda Bob’s Hi-Fi, Norwich
24th November – Soundhouse, Leicester
25th November – Castle Hotel, Manchester
26th November – Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds
27th November – The Fulford Arms, York
28th November – Surf Cafe, Newcastle
29th November – Cafe Totem, Sheffield
30th November – The Jacaranda, Liverpool