Thursday, April 2, 2009

Album Review (and show Tonight) Chores : The Subtle Politics of the Public Hammock

A press release in my e-mail inbox announcing an April 2nd CD Release at Rotture was the first I’d heard of Portland locals Chores. Before taking a listen to the album, The Subtle Politics of the Public Hammock, I took a peek at the record cover – it has a 60’s or early 1970’s look, a hammock in the foreground with some people, facing away, walking down the street in the background. I popped the CD into my car stereo fully prepared for some British-Invasion flavoured indie-pop a-la Blue Skies For Black Hearts. I was dead wrong, but not disappointed.

Chores have been referred to as “pop”, but I would put them more in the category of rock \ post-punk. Repeating, guitar-driven melodies are topped by powerful female vocals, backed by men, sometimes sung and sometimes chanted, altogether reminiscent of X, Yo La Tengo, and a slight flavor of Siouxsie Sioux and the B-52’s. The first track, Welcome To The Public Hammock, has a woman speaking in French over some dreamy music – my French is not quite good enough to determine what she’s actually saying, but something regarding a hammock. The tracks after that are more straightforward, but with lots of variety. Track 2, “My Own Private Esperanto”, wins automatically just because of the title. It also happens to be a good song, with chanted vocals and several changes throughout the song, including a revisiting of the recorded French voice. Track 3, Make the world Go Away, has more powerful, belted vocals, and some references to the Internet. Track 4, Super Car, is referred to on the press kit as a song of “social import”. Maybe I’m not catching all the lyrics, but what I do know is it’s a super fun, metal-influenced (but in a good way) song about driving around in a super car. New New Deal, on the other hand, definitely is social commentary, with lyrics about working at Wal-Mart and in a Hong Kong factory. This song reminds me of a somehow successful blend of 70’s protest soft-rock and riot grrl. Track 6, Familiar Order, is the gentlest song on the album. Tracks 7 and 9, Rose and Noinsuranceland, are unique in that they have male lead vocals. This turned me off of them at first, though the fellow who sings isn’t bad, but the female singer is just SO DAMN GOOD. Her voice blows my mind. It’s hard to compete with that. Regardless, after a couple listenings, I’m kind of fond of “Rose”, a seemingly simple pop song that spans the entirety of a relationship from excitement to loss to bitterness while remaining amiably catchy. I didn’t really get into Noinsuranceland at all, though I definitely appreciate the sentiment – in fact, I’ve spent my whole life there and have been fortunate enough, knock on wood, to avoid any life threatening illnesses.. but the song comes off as a little too obvious and kind of pop-punk for me – not a bad song in itself, it comes off as weak when the rest of the album is so excellent.

Chores are playing tonight (Thursday, April 2) at Rotture to celebrate the release of The Subtle Politics of the Public Hammock. Doors open at 8, Church plays first, Chores second, and Lesser Lewis third. The cost is $5, and if you go, you can buy their album for an additional 5. That’s a good deal.

No comments: