It’s been a long time since Chevelle has been a radio presence. Their second album Wonder What’s Next went platinum thanks to tracks like “The Red” “Send the Pain Below” and “Closure.”
But that was 2002. What have they done since then? Well, the next album, released in 2004, was This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) It another success thanks to singles like “The Clincher” “Get Some” and “Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)”
Since then they’ve started to wane in popularity despite another solid album with Vena Sera and songs “I Get It” and “Well Enough Alone.” The 2009 album Sci-Fi Crimes did well on the Billboard charts, but received relatively little radio play and didn’t strike the same notes that their previous three albums did. With last week’s release of Hats Off they’re back to what they do best:
being gritty, melodic, and harmonious. Their sound is tough to replicate because they don’t have the typical hard rock formula of the band cutting away for the verse vocals. They keep playing straight through and leave it up to front-man Pete Loeffler to sing over it. The short guitar strokes and driving, deep bass keep songs dark and powerful. The drums don’t do anything more than what they have to: deliver a beat for the rest of the band to brood to.
Overall, tracks like “Face to the Floor” and “The Meddler” bring back the nostalgia and attitude of the previous Chevelle records that put them on the map. But there are a couple tracks that I would call “experimental” for them. “Piñata” and “Prima Donna” are cool for their uniqueness in sound. Great changes of pacing with both.
“Piñata” sounds like they borrowed the intro from “Flight of the Bumblebee” and slows into the verse. They sound like they took inspiration from the now defunct band System of a Down for this song. With Loeffler’s vocals resembling that of Serj Tankian. Much harder on the guitar solos and I like it. It fades in and out of chaotic arpeggios and the smoothness of the drum and bass locked into just a repetitive and cool beat.
The very next song “Envy” has this exceedingly slow build. Very dark and quiet. It builds for a very long time before it hits the chorus where the band returns to the type of music we’re used to hearing from them. It’s still a smidgen slower than what they normally play. It’s built on a silence and the quietness of the guitar, but still comes at you with a menacing bass line. This may be my favorite song on the album, it’s kind of the anti-ballad, while still being a ballad.
Strangely, I think the album’s title track may be one of the least likeable on the album. It just doesn’t seem to fit. It sound like they tried to incorporate some Rage Against the Machine into their own sound and it misses the mark for me. There’s nothing remotely resembling anything that they’ve done before. No bonus points earned here. Though they fire right back with the song “Revenge” two tracks later. This may be the next single off the album. They use a distortion pedal on bass and some hard echo/reverb for the guitar. It adds an element they haven’t had before, and with today’s progressive push towards electro music, it’ll fit well on today’s airwaves.
“Prima Donna” is an acoustic song that really surprises with how well it works considering it’s a venture that Chevelle hasn’t toyed with before. It’s taken me a few listens to even accept this sort of idea from them. But, like the rest of the album, they make it work and it grows on you the more you listen to it.
The album then immediately picks back up with the closing song “Clones” that really has movie soundtrack written all over it… which is appropriate considering they wrote a song for the movie Underworld 4.
Overall, this album is a return to the likeness of their two most successful albums. I can see another single or two coming off this album and becoming remotely successful in today’s digital landscape. I hope it brings them back into the spotlight and they get to tour with some acts that will be worth Ticketmaster’s
raping prices (a story for another day!)