26 August 2015

The Chewers - Dead Dads


Welcome to another round of Cover Roulette (but sort of by default) - the band that I am about to review are called The Chewers and they recently got in touch asking if we would review their album.  To be honest until they got in touch I had not heard of the West Virginia natives, just a band that have not come across my spectrum; however before I started to read the email I was drawn to the photos, mainly this one.....



As images go, it is like a fucked up Monty Python, They Might Be Giants, Rocky Horror, Neil Gaiman nightmare - of course I love it, it made me want to review their record without any more consideration.  The album cover also shown about is a prime example of what I sometimes go for in Cover Roulette, just a messed up image that intrigues me. So what can I tell you about The Chewers?  Well they are a two piece of self-confessed freaks called Travis Caffery and Michael Sadler; according to their info they are trying to create an idiosyncratic brand of avant-garde rock 'n' roll, that is infused with a wry and deadpan sense of humour (the extra u is there for the British spelling, otherwise Luke goes OCD with my posts - he is my spell checker now).  I would also like to point out that the download pack they sent me actually caused my laptop to crash - twice (it is either a warning or an invitation).  So - apart from a messed up photos, some weird press blurb and a sense of adventure, it is time to see what 'Dead Dads' sounds like.

The first of the twenty songs is called "It's All The Rage" which has a sound akin to a Captain Beefheart horror trip, it has a sense of macabre from the beginning with a voice of doom pronouncing that it is all the rage with poisoned bile against a swirl a claustrophobic noise that drones and moves like a tide, you would expect it to be either awful or genius - personally I find it charming and deranged, but then again I like odd ball music so this is a promising opening.  "Dig The Pit" starts with a drum pattern then goes into an alternative rock/Tom Waits poetry spiral, it is an atmospheric diversion from "It's All The Rage" as it is does not hold the same level of open hostility of the former; however it is confusing to be honest upon the first listen, but with music of this nature it is not the first time where it makes it's impression - you always have to give it an while to reveal itself and that is where this song works.  Musically it has a hint of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet with some Primus and as previously mentioned, a large helping of Tom Waits on this number.  Third track "Curtains" is almost disco in places, but as if it is being played by the bar band from the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.  It is all strange timing, off-kilt tunes and a monologue about curtains that are always on the singer's mind.  Three tracks in and only nine minutes have passed, but already there has been more variation from this duo than you would find on your standard rock duo album - "Curtains" is not as easy to digest, but it is still a rewarding track none the less.  "Jimmy Does the Shimmy" sounds like a sinister pray about dancing in a club, I swear that Frank Zappa would have loved this song.  The track is a critique on nightclubs and the club culture, drugs and the danger of being a player when you cannot afford to pay the bills; it is a slow paced number and well-constructed, it is deliberately uncomfortable and for some reason I warm to this track very easily.  "Bee Buzz" is (as the title may suggest) a song about bees, it brings a bit more aggression to the proceedings and it has a certain horror sound which brings to mind an attack of killer bees (I have watched too many horror films in my youth).  The Beefheart/Waits mix is in full flow here, it is something that I can get into very easily and it is very infectious.

"The Reduction" is born in feedback and erupts in drone/backwards guitars, it has harsh horns, it has the minimal drums that hold it all together and it sounds like someone is about to be attacked by something from the Evil Dead or Friday The 13th.  Basically it is a strange and wonderful piece of avant-garde pop that will either make your heart skip in joy to its twisted beauty, or it will be something that you will never understand - personally I find it hypnotic and bat crap crazy at the same time, so all the hallmarks that I will fall under its charms.  "(I Wanna Be) Friends With Your Kids" is just plan creepy, but then the people they are talking about are the hipster kids that going to nightclubs and are famous for being famous - you know, cunts.  Anyway, it makes me laugh more than anything and whilst it is not my favourite song by a long shot, it is still enjoyable.  "Politics" is next and for just over a minute all it does is off-kilter guitars, failing keys, quirky noises and moaning about the President - it is over so quick that just like some early Napalm Death, it goes by so fast that it doesn't leave much impression.  But it still holds my interest, mainly because I am trying to figure out where the music is going to go next.  Another short and bizarre number is "Cyclicism" - the train of thought lyrical nightmare is dirty and damn right nasty, it is as if They Might Be Giants decided that they did not want to be nice anymore and just gave in to the night.  Again, the length means that it is over just as it gets going for me; however I did find it to be better than "Politics".  With a bass tuning, some interest keys and dirty guitar we are introduced to "The Lark" which marks the halfway point of this album.  This is an instrumental track that guides the album down another bizarro path towards an unlikely goal of unknown destination, it is very relaxing if the truth be told; even when they go for a deliberate time change it is still cannot help but calm my mind.  Not sure if they were aiming to relax someone with this song, but by the deity it is calming this man down.

"Rot Gut" starts the second half of this album with harmonics and country/western sounds being added to the mix hear. It is all out of time with each other but following time with the drums and that makes it incredibly hard to keep up with, but I promise once you have it then you will see the level of skill it took to make it.  It might not have the lyrical quality of "The Reduction", but it does have some of the most interest music on the album.  The title track "Dead Dads" is next, it is basically a nightmare in musical form.  Plain and simple, it sounds like a song I have woken up scream from and I love it.  It is talking about how all dads are dead and in situation where they have been seen. It sounds like a horror version of They Might Be Giants once more, all strange keys and noises and keeping the album on the crazy, strange path that has been treading since the beginning of the album.  Track thirteen is call "It Must Be Fresh" and we are back in Don Van Vliet territory, with a rumbling frequencies, low drums and crazy lyrics that sound like a cannibal awaiting his next meal.  It is the first song which could have been a little bit shorter to be honest, it is decent but it does go on a few beats too long.  "Hello, Mr. Lizard" is a story about a lizard and his lizard life, a mixture of human traits and lizard experiences, it is another strange number but an interesting one.  It goes along with the pace of the dead, it has some drone inspired themes to the music, it is a dark and brooding number and I love it.  It is wonderfully fucked up and that truly appeals to my sense at tastes.  As we approach the last quarter of the album, we are introduced to "King Cockroach" which features Johnny Dowd, who is an alternative country musician comes Ithaca, New York (but was originally from Fort William, Texas) on vocals and synths.  I found his delivery to be a mixture of Lou Reed and Nick Cave, this sound of the life of cockroach is the spiritual twin of "Hello, Mr. Lizard"; however it is done with more flair and sounds (for want of a better word) more alive.  It is still bat crap crazy, but it is also brilliant.

"Swelling Spasm Frustration" starts the last quarter of this album with a spiralling noise that mixes dirty horns, crazy guitars and a train of consciousness and thoughts that just keep on coming like a torrent of water that is very easy to get lost in (whether you want to or not), when it gets to the backwards sections of the song you end up feeling like you are just bouncing along the ground face first; but it is not over.  Far from it, as "Scar Not a Car" percussion that sounds like a someone is either putting up MDF pieces to a wall with a hammer or some construction machinery is playing around in the back ground (it could be that Sister Spinster (the home-made drum machine of Thomas Truax)) is doing some side projects away from his Lordship.  It is at odds with the song itself, creating an unsettling piece of music from a simple tune about losing a car.  "The Chase" is a tale of nightmares come real, it is a story that builds like the zombies heading towards the helicopter in World War Z; as the nightmare chase comes closure the music becomes loud, frantic and intense, but then it passes and the subject of the song is left in dark alley awaiting the next attack - it is a feeling that is familiar to me at this point as well, the song is a good one that works so well - but I feel so drained by the end of it, it is that effective.  We are at the penultimate track which is called "Misanthropic Bones" and this is a long track - most of the song on the album have been about the two/three minute length, however as the album has went along the length of the songs has increased.  This song is six minutes in length and it starts off with the guitar unleashing strange noises as the song fades in from the back ground; but then a de-tour happens and the song becomes almost normal, it sounds like Nick Cave/Tom Waits fronting a minimal grunge band who are aiming for the horizon as they play their drone rock that has been influenced by Cake.  It breaks down back to the original noise of the beginning of the song as it fades out the goes to the strange guitar noises ago, it is almost as if the song in a constant loop that could go on forever; very interesting and completely off the map.  Ending the album is "The Leaky Boat" which sounds as if it was recording as the ship was sinking.  It is very dark at this point, the guitar sounds like a distress call to the howling winds around the album as it reaches the end of its long and delirious journey.  It is an instrumental song that guides us home, but it is also one of the least bizarre if the truth be told; it is almost normal and that is somehow more terrifying at this point.

Even after a few weeks of living with the album, I am still not 100% sure what to make of it.  Depending on my mood when I start to listen to it, it is either genius or it is just too off the charts to make an informed decision; I think that is the point of the album thought, it is meant to confuse the listener in places and enthral them in others (if they are so inclined to let it reveal its magic).  It is a good album that has a lot going for it, but it is not without faults either.  It is a few track too long and a few of the song could lose a bit of meat as well, but these are just the opinions of a crazed man from the east side of the pond called the Atlantic.  If you are looking for something that is quite frankly so far off the map that not even a compass or bread crumb trail will help, I would say this is the new band for you.  Really good, but also bat crap crazy - the photo and cover does not do this band justice.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out

Top track - The Lark

You can purchase the digital version of the album on Amazon here

You can visit The Chewers website here

You can follow them on Soundcloud here

You can purchase the album from their Bandcamp here

You can follow their activities on Facebook here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

You can stream the album on Deezer here

You can stream the album on Tidal here

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