I am not a Chevelle fan. If you have a list of Chevelle fans and my name popped up there among the frat boys and guys who like metal but are too chicken for metal bands, and especially if being a fan means I like any album produced after their debut, you may cross my name right off.
However, that debut is such a wonder of nature that I just have to talk about it:
Now, I bear no ill-feelings towards Chevelle. They just play a particular style of rock that is decidedly not for me. I could probably listen to one or two songs from Vena Sera or Wonder What’s Next without much squirming. But hey, did you know Chevelle started out as a Christian Rock band?
Yep, that’s what Point #1 is. The guys were signed to Squint entertainment, a short-lived Christian label started by Newsboys songwriter Steve Taylor. I had read rumors before that the band intentionally used their album deal as a springboard to get into the mainstream quicker than through conventional means (acting on the assumption that Christian Rock labels are more gullible than secular ones) which is brilliant, but I found out much later that one of the reasons the band was signed to Epic was that Squint fell apart. It’s too bad, given that the youngest member of the band was 17 when this album came out, that the band wasn’t as brilliant as I had hoped.
Still, the album they released through Squint is something else. People familiar with Chevelle’s newer stuff might make the criticism that the band is a touch repetitive and far too in love with the 3/4 time signature. While all that is true, you really gotta hear the debut to get down on some TRUE repetitiveness.
The album starts out with a drawn out palm-muted chunky guitar sound that is interspersed with chunky guitar strumming. It’s supposed to be an introduction, and indeed you could stop the album right there, having achieved all the variety the album has. That may have sounded overly critical, which isn’t what I’m all about, but bear with me here…
The entire album, from start to finish, uses the exact same tones. It makes sense since the band didn’t really have a variety of gear or guitars or amps, and they recorded the thing across 17 days. In those 17 days, the band did not touch a knob on any controls. It really sounds like you’re hearing the band play all the songs in a row, and that actually has an effect that I’m very fond of. It’s like you’re listening to a really good practice in the band’s garage, a very humble setting and one that lets some pretty interesting ideas through, when there are any. Also, the fact that they use the same tones through the album is all right because it’s actually quite a good tone.
After the palm-muted introduction, the album’s title song comes on. It’s actually not bad at all, except for the psuedo-Christian lyrics. Not that I have a problem with Christian music (I will be talking more about it in future), but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do religious lyrics. One of the wrong ways is to be totally vague all the time. However, I have never actually read Chevelle’s lyrics for this song or the others, mainly because the guy’s instrument is much more suited as another instrument than something that is actually saying something. It’s a bit like a much duller version of Refused in that way. This guy does know how to scream though, and demonstrates it towards the end of the song. Quite nice.
We then plod through “Prove To You” which is a very ploddy song indeed, straight to “MIA”, which is a bit faster and introduces some interesting rhythmic challenges that the band handles quite well. It’s nice in a way to hear the product of a band who has played shows for 3 years before even releasing a debut, there’s an undeniable “everyone knows the songs really well” kind of vibe to it.
Then, if you can get past the mostly-dead-air introduction to “Skeptic”, you hear a song that’s just like the previous 3 songs, only a bit more metal. Then “Anticipation” comes in and is the first of MANY Chevelle songs in the afore-mentioned 3/4 time signature. It’s interesting to note that the bassist, the youngest of the 3 Chevelle Brothers, was brought into the band not because he’s a relative, but because they liked his bassing more than the guy they had, which begs the question, just how boring of a bassist was their previous guy? The bass up to this point and for all but 1 of the rest of the songs is simply plodding along with the guitar, never daring to venture into the tasty realms of adventure that tempt the mind of bassists with imagination, but I digress.
After screaming “face” a lot, we get my favorite song on the album: “DOS” (diminutive song titles seem to be the fashion for this release). I like this album not because it’s a little more chilled out or because it’s long or in 3/4 time, but because of the story behind the song, which I can’t find sources for but believe me I have known this story for a while. Basically, the band wrote the song when they played a gig for 2 people, and some of what become the song came from an improvised song they did when asked to play a request. The song becomes fairly endearing after that. Also, while looking that story in print somewhere, I ran across an article that compares Chevelle to Tool… what? I guess people really don’t know anything about music… tragic shame, that.
After “DOS”, we plod on through many more songs like “Long”, “Blank Earth”, and “SMA”, which was apparently “good” enough to be included in some of the band’s newer shows (and also sounds like it’s being played out of tune on the recording). Finally, we come the final song, “Peer”, a song that, for a minute, is a welcome change from the formula, mostly because it has a real bassline. It’s traded off for the usual sound right after that.
With that, we have a dull but endearing album by a Christian garage band that sold their souls to the Devil of Ozzfest. I dig that, however, I guess because I am totally fine with a separation of Church and Music, except when both elements are hit with full force. As for Chevelle, I will forever puzzle over how I could dislike a band so much yet still enjoy the one release they did, totally bare-bones, that nobody else likes. It could be nostalgia, but who can ever tell.
Well, until tomorrow!
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