Defying the claws of pigeonholes and predictability with even greater relish and mischief, US duo The Chewers release their new album in the devilish shape of Downhill Calendar. Off kilter rock is pretty much what the band calls its sound and more than anything echoes the captivating web of styles and flavours making up their new release and rock n’ roll.
The Chewers is the creation of Travis Caffrey and Michael Sadler, both West Virginia bred who by chance eventually met up having individually relocated to Nashville. 2010 saw the release of debut album Every Drop Disorganized and the raw seeds of the sound and humour which has grown over subsequent releases and now boldly flourishes within fourth full-length Downhill Calendar.
I’m Getting Thinner starts things off and within its seven plus minutes of captivation entangles a host of flavours from art/avant rock to post and raw punk through to noise and experimental rock. Immediately bass and drums lay down a repetitive lure smothered in sonic lacing and rising acidic grooves. The rhythmic core of the song echoes the prowess of Gang of Four, its sonic side also hinting but expelling a more feral touch and intent. There is an instinctive nagging at the heart of the song, rhythms its main fuel, which epitomises all album tracks; each song almost harassing attention but rewarding with contagion loaded enterprise matched by the lyrical agility and magnetic delivery of the vocals.
Never a labour only an addictive pleasure even at its extensive length, the excellent opener hands ears and imagination over to the following Skin Stay Thin. Its first breath brings an inescapable swing which again is as primal and raw as it is compelling and manipulative. Hooks and grooves spring like leeches at the imagination, a mischievous edge to them all recalling the creative antics of former PiL/Killing Joke/Pigface member Martin Atkins in his Brian Brain guise. Becoming more caustic by the moment it in turn makes way for the electro /noise punk courting of Where Is the Fun?, those wonderfully infernal rhythms again worming under the skin and into hips within seconds. Vocals, words, and guitar swiftly entwine and saunter across that rhythmic incitement, the latter embracing blues grazing to its melodic vines and funk nurtured swings.
Rat Belly crawls through ears next; squirts of brass radiating on its heavy infection loaded lumber. With the song’s step never accelerating, the guitar scorches its flesh as electronic resonance brings its own dark dissonance. Bordering on bedlam but just managing to restrain its mania, the track pretty much slips into the psyche trapping Frankie’s Downhill Calendar. Once more drums lead the incursion, their instinctive agility a puppeteer to physical involvement and a rock ‘n’ roll appetite as the creative toxicity of guitar and imagination sear song and senses alike. As vocals once more unearth their own regular magnetism eighties post punk hues please and intimate but only adding to the individual sound of The Chewers.
Without quite sparking the same ardour for its predecessors Yo Yellow Pig still got attention locked in with its mischief coated swing and blues nurtured causticity while the excellent Then There’s Me offers a corroded blues rock canter as seductively elegant as it is openly mordant.
Both tracks trapped attention with ease leaving I Let the Stooge Loose to bring things to a close with its untamed but masterfully mercurial rock ‘n’ roll. Not only to the closing track but The Chewers’ sound in general, there is a sense of bands like Pere Ubu, Powersolo, and The Residents to its character but as the song proves all essences in something unique to The Chewers.
So if you are looking for rock n’ roll in its most “off Kilter” adventure then Downhill Calendar is a must exploration, indeed one for all fans of the flavours The Chewers twist, corrupt, and use so enjoyably.
Downhill Calendar is available now @ https://thechewers.bandcamp.com/album/downhill-calendar
Pete RingMaster 24/07/2018
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