Over the past few months I’ve written about a lot of artists and albums. Mostly, though, I’ve just written about Chaperone and how awesome they are. I realized just now that I never really posted my original piece on the band, a review of their 2010 EP Cripple King, which I named the best Chicago release of last year. So here’s that article (which can also be found in the Archives), followed by a little show review from their record release performance at Logan Square Auditorium (for their new 7″ “Raised By Wolves,” not Cripple King).
Usually when I write a review of an album, I like to revisit it at least four or five times before I even think about what I’m going to write. For my review of The Airborne Toxic Event‘s selt-titled debut, I probably listened to their record 20 or so times (I was very bored at work). I’ve easily eclipsed that number with the new EP by Chaperone, Cripple King.
And I could probably listen to it all day. Cripple King moves along smooth as silk and constantly drives forward, never looking back. Chaperone! describes their music as “Pop-Americana,” and that fits them well. They feature jangly guitar, wonderful harmonies and a whole slew of percussion instruments that add layers on top of an already very good surface.
The EP is five tracks, each one building on the last. “Fed on Coal,” the lead track, is a good introduction to the band. In 87 seconds you get a great idea of what the band is going to give you over the remainder of the EP. It’s also a very good song on its own.
The first single off the record, “Thomas,” really gets things moving. It’s a toe-tapper that will stick with you for days. Heavy on guitar and harmonies, the sound just sweeps over you creating a sense of euphoria coupled with underlying longing. It’s a great track, and a perfect set-up for the next track, “Witches and Sailors.”
My favorite line from the EP comes in this third track:
Send back thank-you cards
I am no messiah
No one should love a man
Who lives just to get higher
I don’t want to lie
Everyone within these walls will die
The final two tracks, “Letter to Home” and “Waltzing Topside,” rely more heavily on vocals than the other three songs. They also feature some of the most fully-realized moments on the EP. The lyrics take a solemn turn, which makes the harmonies that much more haunting.
Clocking in at just under 13 minutes, Cripple King is just an appetizer to the feast I think this band is probably capable of. They seem to have made all the right decisions on this release, and if they keep going that way I definitely see big things in their future.
Hopefully that write-up got you excited enough to go pick up their EP if you haven’t already. If it wasn’t enough, then you need to go see them live, where they really shine. I know I make a lot of jokes on twitter, and sometimes facebook, about mistakes they make on stage or terrible jokes, but the fact is, those mistakes and jokes are one of the biggest reasons I love the band. They’re completely unafraid of looking silly or screwing up. I think they secretly enjoy it. Most bands are so afraid of their image being tarnished or having someone say something ill of them, that they play everything annoyingly safe. Not Chaperone. They go for it whole hog every time out.
At this particular show that I saw over the weekend, there were some mistakes. There were also some amazing tunes being played and a great show being performed, whether because of or in spite of the mistakes I don’t know. There wasn’t anything new, to me, being played, but if you haven’t seen Chaperone for a while then you’ve missed the evolution of a really awesome group. Whether it’s the Mark Sheridan-penned “Son Of Love Control” or Shaylah’s “Word For Man,” the band have turned the sign to “Free Skate” and everyone gets their chance to shine.
The reason for the show was that their 7″ single, “Raised By Wolves,” was just released. This one features bassist Miles on lead guitar and vocals, and he absolutely kills it. If you don’t know Miles yet, he’s the one usually running around on stage and trying to knock Shaun over while they’re rocking out. His voice changes from genuinely sweet to a gravel-y mix of David Draiman and Johnny Rotten when he screams his lyrics at the microphone.
The songs that I started loving back in August of last year have remained with me, and the new songs that I’ve heard live keep getting better. Especially “O Ye Drowning Children,” which is the b-side to the new single. It packs a good punch for being so short. I really dig all the songs that they’ve been playing lately, and I hope that plans for a full-length are at least being talked about. I personally can’t wait.
For some more great photos, check out Kari’s album from the show here!