Monday, February 5, 2018

Usual Freaks: A Few Words About The Fab Debut Album From Chemtrails

Sometimes a record comes along that is such a bold stab at melding a few dozen genres that a reviewer would look like a fool attempting to be "impartial" about such a risky-but-rewarding artistic gesture. And Calf Of The Sacred Cow, out on Friday via the ever-superb PNKSLM label, is just such a record. This album, the debut full-length recording from London band Chemtrails, is so invigorating and downright infectious that it makes even a jaded reviewer like myself a bit excited about indie-pop all over again.

I suppose a listener unfamiliar with this lot would be a bit surprised by the dystopian sci-fi landscapes described in the lyrics of songs like "Tendrils", but for those of us who've eagerly awaited this record while feasting on earlier releases from this band, the song seems the sort of casual brilliance this lot have managed to crank out routinely so far. Elsewhere, the chiming "Usual Freaks" suggests that the band have found a way to blend their glam rock attack with a more accessible tunefulness of the sort that acts like Ty Segall pursue on this side of the Atlantic. And if the T. Rex-stroll of "Lizard Empire" doesn't immediately grab you like it did me, try the roaring "Dead Air" instead, all Buzzcocks chords whipped into a futuristic frenzy. The song is utterly unlike anything else you're going to hear in 2018, and yet, like so much of the music of Chemtrails, it remains supremely catchy and buoyant. If something called "A Beautiful Cog in the Monolithic Death Machine" doesn't charm you on the strength of that title alone, let the cut's electro-buzz wash over you, all Ramones-riffs-as-played-by-robots goodness.

The music of Chemtrails just pleases me greatly. I suppose I would be happy if every song by this act was as good as the bouncy New Wave of "Watch Evil Grow", or as gloriously glammy as "Milked", but I'm also glad to hear the band branch out into new territory here on Calf Of The Sacred Cow as the glistening electronica of "Ghosts Of My Dead Cats" illustrates before things on this debut long-player end on "Overgrown", all 4AD-style effects layered over a truly lovely melody.

Chemtrails -- Mia (vocals, guitar), Laura (vocals, guitar), Another Laura (vocals, bass), Ian (keyboard), and Sam (drums) -- make music that really shouldn't work so well when you describe it in words, given that the melding of a C86-style DIY approach with a near-glam-stomp sounds like a car crash. Still, it works spectacularly for Chemtrails, with the selections virtually riots of sound, and Calf Of The Sacred Cow being a truly kaleidoscopic assault on the senses when taken as a whole.

Gloriously different and instantly catchy, the music here is unhinged goodness, and the sort of risky indie-pop of big, BIG tunes that few are willing to chance making these days. Thank God that Chemtrails do.

Calf Of The Sacred Cow is out on Friday via PNKSLM.

More details on Chemtrails via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited band photo from label]