14 March 2016

The Chewers - Live At Exit/In

As in many a horror film.... they are back.

The 'they' in question are The Chewers, you may remember the review from last year of 'Dead Dads' (if not, you can read it here) and the mad scientists of rock within called Travis Caffey and Michael Sadler.  They created a record of such a high Beefheart level of rock/noise lunacy, that it was one of those albums that kept coming back to my imagination in the deepest, darkest moments of my nightmares and dreams – in a very positive way, depending on your point of view.  It was one of the more challenging albums of the year, not perfect but still a very brave record in the current climate of pop star cookie cut people, celebrities who are famous for being shits and general mainstream blandness.  So to hear a band like this is always a refreshing change/challenge.  Today I am reviewing a live recording from a show which took place at Exit/In in Nashville, which occurred in front of their fans which dancers who had the weird smile heads - if only I could have been there, I would have paid good money for that one - but not Trans-Atlantic money sadly.  It is going to be an interesting album, to hear how this two piece functions on stage - so let us find out how that sounds...

Starting off this album off is "Swamp Drag" which has the crowd cheering and noises randomly swirling in the background as the band thank the audience, then a drum machine is cranked into life with real drumming adding to the song and guitars chopping their way through the sound to make a vortex of noise that is the band's calling card.  The vocals have a large amount of venom instilled into their core and the song has a great sense of menace about it, sounding like Primus after they took a sinister turn and decided to endanger the world for their own amusement.  The next song is called "Filthy" which has an off-beat guitar tone that brings to mind the opening music for The Ren & Stimpy show.  The song progresses with the swirl of menacing lunacy that I have come to expect from The Chewers, it is not a sunshine and happiness sort of song and if they started to play like that, I would be sort of terrified.  But as the song progresses, you are brow-beaten into submission by the progressively aggressive sound of the guitar and the droning like beat of the drumming.  It is a fine example of the band in their sinister best and it bring a dry smile to my face.  The third track is called “Cyclicism” which has a vibe that I can only compare to Primus once again, Frank Zappa and the Captain of my Beefheart; it is a song that I find very easy to follow at times, however it is also a song that is strange upon the ears at other times and here lies the beauty of the song (and the band as a whole).  It is not easy listening, but if you are listening to a band like The Chewers then you are not wishing for an easy experience.  It moves at a faster pace and it sounds like the medication is either just being dropped or the sane pills are wearing off – both would produce the same wonderful result.  “Jimmy Does the Shimmy” is a number that I have heard before and it is the sad tale of Jimmy and his dancing desires.  It is a tale of mis-adventure, coupled with a word of two of caution and mocking reality.  The story telling nature of the tale is one that sticks in your head for a long time after the six minute plus track has finished, it is well worth the effort for the open minded listener – but probably not for fans of Rihanna or hipster beards.

“Dig the Pit” is the fifth song on the album which takes a little while to actually get started, this time the song is more of a strange train of thought that rambles on as if Armageddon is on its way and the nightmare is running on around the protagonist of the song.  It is the longest track of the album once more if you are looking for a relaxing time then this is not the song for you, but if you are looking for something that is not the perceived version of “normal” then I would truly recommend this song as a great example of how art and rock can still exist under one fucked up banner of bizarre.  The penultimate song on the album is called “Techno-Slaves” which adds a disco beat to the proceedings as the band chop their way through the forest of sound that is this argument against the modern world. The vocals fall out of focus sometimes, so it is hard to hear the full story behind the lyrics; but this sort of endures the recording to me, as has not been updated in the studio afterwards to make everything all shiny – well played Chewers, well played.  The song itself is another aggressive art-rock number that gives more each time you play it, but only if you are looking for the strange.  Ending the album is the encore which is called “Burn It Down” which is slows everything down as the band defy the odds and aim to end the album on a high pint and almost makes it.  The song is played well, but it does not reach the heights of the other tracks on the record.  However, it is still enjoyable and what more would you wanted for this band?

As a document of the live show, this album for me has completed its task admirably as it has made me interested in what a gig from The Chewers would be about; I would still want to see them for the dancing teeth, now the music adds to the intriguing as well.  The sound is aggressive in a way that you do not really see too often these days and that endears the band to me a lot more, they are not one of those acts where you are going to put them on in the background to relax and unwind for the day – they are challenging and to think any otherwise is ridiculous.  I did read another review where the reviewer was very mocking in tone, stating that they were glad they were not there with the band’s cult following.  I think the reviewer was really harsh as he wrote the review whilst waxing his beard and clearly not knowing metal from his Elbow (UK band) (I am just assuming he is a hipster due to the write up he gave this album), but he was right that this band is not one to casually explore.  You do not go for this sort of music to be hip and it is so far off the beaten path that it would be unwise to bring it back to the alleged right route, it is fine where it is and will continue to make messed up noises for a long time to come.  It is not an album I would listen to everyday, then again I would not listen to Ulver, Tom Waits, Danko Jones or The Smashing Pumpkins each day and they are bands/artists I adore.  The album is a great live recording that works for me a lot more than the studio album, if you are looking for your new abstract rock heroes – here they are now.

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track – Techno-Slaves

You can purchase Live at Exit/In from The Chewers Bandcamp here

You can follow the activities of The Chewers on Facebook here

At the time of writing Live at Exit/In is not on any streaming sites.

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