Death House Chaplain – Of Asthma
March 11, 2008
What It Sounds Like: A blend of mid-energy lo-fi garage rock mixed with bits of quirky instrumentals and minimalistic blues tendencies. Throw Queens Of The Stone Age and Japandroids together, and you might have something close to what we get here on a smaller scale.
Matthew Holl is certainly a fan of QOTSA, but he takes a much more subdued approach to his band’s songs than Joshua Homme, and a much more quirky one at that. Tracks like Soak It Up are almost assaulting on the ear (don’t take that wrong – there’s just no other word for it), with their forceful vocals, overly jagged guitar work, and hollow bass. It’s a band that could be mistaken for overly confident rockers who don’t know how to construct a song – though they are more than aware of what they are doing. The blues elements are what ties everything together. It’s certainly off-center, as it is with the slow jam Know By Now, which channels a smoke-filled New Orleans bar, and a Dire Straits solo to boot.
Like many with ties to garage rock, the vocals can be sketchy at best. Holl’s vocals are nothing that are going to win him an award (he may even get an award taken away from him – he’s nothing outstanding in the least), but with music this loosely constructed, having a premier vocalist at the helm of the ship wouldn’t even sound correct. This stuff is take it or leave it. You know by song one or two if this record is going to have any appeal to you or not.
Would-be single Flipside is easily the most accessible and catchy thing here. You could actually sing the chorus, remember how it goes, and hum along to the guitar riff that follows alongside Holl’s delivery. It’s in sharp contrast to noisy (but strangely, not overly powerful) numbers like Where Do We Go From Here or Until No Carp – you can tell that these dudes are probably running out of ideas near the end of this record. You can find some fun here if you like noise and drunken, half-hearted shreds, but they’re no doubt grasping for straws as they try to fill up a little more time. They’re a far cry from from the frantic, almost dancy post-punk of album opener Capture The Flag, where even a strange sense of melody comes out of the drones and darkness.
There’s just so many various ideas going on here, and it certainly makes for an interesting listen – but nothing that’s overly cohesive.
Is this record worthy of being in my collection? Sure. It’s simply not one that is going to come out every day – or every week – or every month.
If you had to listen to two tracks: Flipside / Susan