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|Chrash Course: Quad Cities Band Marks the Release of The Name They Change, November 29 at RIBCO|
|Music - Feature Stories|
|Written by Jeff Ignatius|
|Wednesday, 26 November 2008 02:31|
The Quad Cities quartet Chrash goes by many names, and right now its preference appears to be Chrash Flood. That shape-shifting seems to reflect an almost willful desire for obscurity.
It's also a fair summary of Chrash's appropriately titled new record, The Name They Change, which the band will celebrate Saturday night at RIBCO.
The album opens with pure guitar pop and closes with a bifurcated song that ends where the previous track began. It's warm and inviting at the outset and ends up in a cold and distant place.
That elusiveness isn't by itself a bad thing; Radiohead has made a career out of it. But it's incongruous with the easy allure of the record's first two-thirds.
The CD - the band's third full-length - is front-loaded of the sort of slightly askew power pop that Robert Pollard specialized in with Guided by Voices - prizing hooks and accessibility without sacrificing eccentricity. Lead vocalist Chris Bernat even sings a bit like Pollard, particularly when his voice is paired with some majestic guitar in the climax of "The Office (British Version)."
The record starts on an undeniable note, with the sunny and surefooted "The Wish Song" hinting at insecurity in its self-reference: "This is ‘The Wish Song' / I hope that we don't get it wrong / It is the first song that I will sing to you for real." It's a near-perfect band showcase, as Pat Stolley's production lets each player shine without ever detracting from the song. The joyous and brief instrumental break is a model of egalitarianism and economy.
"The Office (British Version)" offers a different side of the band, and it's a smart juxtaposition, with emotion and nuance replacing the giddy pop of the opener. Underneath the drums, guitar, and piano is a thin layer of keyboards that exerts a force on the song far out of proportion to its prominence in the mix.
The ever-shifting "Clap Jordan" fuses those different sides, as the chorus and verses sound as if they were drawn from two different songs. It works, though, introduced by a flurry of hand percussion and never stressing the contrast between the parts.
Throughout, there's ample space for each musician. "Aging Aircraft" gives bassist Kim Murray the lead, while Paul Blomquist's drums on the album are propulsive and busy but unobtrusive. The guitars of Burnat and Eric Stone explore without being showy. Through six of its nine tracks, everything serves the songs.
But discordance creeps in on "The Excess Parade," which begins with patched-together crowd noise that only serves to introduce idle chatter as a sonic motif.
Most jarring is the bluesy party vibe that gets severed and replaced with a solo piano halfway through the closing "Director's Cut." Piano is all there is to the 35-second "Bonus Features," which precedes "Director's Cut" on the record but plays more like a continuation or a sequel. (And who consumes the bonus features before the main attraction anyway?)
These art-rock bits are superfluous and distracting in the absence of some larger, self-evident goal. The effect on The Name They Change is akin to body-snatching, as a forcefully magnetic record is gradually overwhelmed by something that sounds and looks similar but lacks humanity.
I get the impression that Chrash wanted The Name They Change to degrade as it progressed, but that disintegration mars an otherwise sterling example of pop songcraft.
Chrash will host a CD-release party on Saturday, November 29, at RIBCO in The District of Rock Island. The band will perform at 11 p.m. Idpyramid (10 p.m.) and Meth & Goats (1 a.m.) will also play.
For more information on Chrasth, visit MySpace.com/chrashmusic.
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