Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Chewers-Chuckle Change and Also LP (2011)

Most of the bands I review for Drug Punk wear their influences on their sleeves. Many of these bands also describe themselves as "weird" and "freaked out" in the emails they send me, or in their bandcamp pages. Very few of these bands come anywhere close to being as good as their influences, and almost none of them are truly weird. What do I mean by "weird," you ask, in an age when lawyers can go to work with red hair and any jerkoff can go from The Beatles to Pink Reason in an hour's worth of surfing the web, without having any sense of why the latter is so great and the former are, well, trite?*

For me, "weird" usually implies a refusal. A refusal to simply rip off your favorite bands, a refusal to go along with whatever stupid revival is current. And a refusal to apologize for this. The Chewers aren't radically new, but they are absolutely weird. This LP, twenty-two tracks of improvised curiosities and experiments, is clearly and unabashedly indebted to the Captain. Of course, Captain Beefheart is one of those bands we all claim to love, and most of you reading this probably have Trout Mask Replica safely tucked away in a zip file somewhere next to the porn on your laptop. But how much do you in fact listen to Captain Beefheart, for fun? And who have you heard, lately or ever, that actually sounds as fucked up and out of vogue as Captain Beefheart must have back in the late '60s?

No one, that's who. This isn't noise, this isn't neo-grunge, this isn't noisepunk, this is just a bunched of isolated goofballs doing their thing and I doubt they're all that interested in getting interviewed by Pitchfork or whatever bigdealsowhat blog. Either that, or they've done an amazing job acting like they just don't give a fuck about popularity.

Usually, 22 tracks would simply put me to sleep because of the sheer volume. But not only did I listen to all 22 of these songs, but most of them are good. Really good. They have a family resemblance, but don't really sound the same and this doesn't end up sounding like a simple Beefheart tribute. The first ten tracks are mostly sketchy, off-the-cuff improv scribblescrable. The Chewers really find their stride on "Smiling Samuel," a lilting, off-kilter tune that, i think, tells the tale of Smiling Samuel. It sounds like each member of the band started the song a few seconds apart from each other, and they're not particularly interested in sync'ing up. It's easily the funniest song I've heard this year. From there on it's pure pleasure listening to the Chewers throw together sounds that sort of gel into songs, in the way that a collage vaguely becomes a separate whole after you've finished cutting and pasting bits of newspaper and magazines together.

Instead of continuing to prattle, I'll simply urge you to check out The Chewers.

*Yeah, that's right. Fuck the Beatles. Rock coulda been anything before they dumped Sgt. Pepper on us, and they single-handedly set rock back a decade with all that faux-eastern, wanna-be spiritualist crap.

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