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Virgin Islands

Ernie Chambers V. God

(The Control Group; US: 10 May 2011; UK: Import; Online Release Date: 9 May 2011)

Virgin Islands V. Society

A recent history lesson is in order here, as you may be wondering who the Ernie Chambers is that is mentioned in the title of the debut full-length album from Seattle-based post-punk band Virgin Islands. Well, Chambers was a former Nebraska state senator, who was often called “the angriest black man in Nebraska” because he was something of a maverick. In 2007, Chambers filed a lawsuit against God, asking the deity to “cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats… of grave harm to innumerable persons”. It might have seemed like a joke, but Chambers was actually trying to make a point against what he thought were frivolous lawsuits being brought before the courts in his state by putting forth a crazy lawsuit himself. Ultimately, the Nebraska Court of Appeals eventually dismissed Chambers’ case on the grounds that the court “does not address or dispose of abstract questions or issues that might arise in [a] hypothetical or fictitious situation or setting”. So much for that, then.


In many ways, just like the real life Ernie Chambers, Virgin Islands rail against injustices (real or perceived), a crumbling society and – well, maybe not in the case of Chambers – leeches who steal your pot, smoke your last cigarette and drink all your beer. Lyrically, then, Virgin Islands can be written off as just another band bitching about the state of the world with nothing particularly meaningful to say: they doth complain too much. Musically, on the other hand, Virgin Islands have a peppy vitality that recalls the very early post-punk work of XTC just without the humor and geekiness. “No Doctor” opens the album with a cacophonic squall of noise, before lurching into a galloping track propelled by bassist Charles Keller, who really brings the low end to this album in spades. In fact, Keller’s playing – a sort of heavy, sub-woofer rattling sound – really is the highlight of Ernie Chambers V. God, as his lines are exactly what you tend to follow as the record wears on. They’re groovy, they’re danceable, and they make up for any deficiencies in the wordsmithing department. Virgin Islands don’t really have much to say that you couldn’t figure out on your own, but they bring the noise in a well-crafted retro-inspired package. That makes Ernie Chambers V. God a delightful collection of 11 songs that will shake the windows of your house and make you want to pogo around the room of your dwelling that happens to have a stereo. For that, I’m sure that the real life Ernie Chambers would be proud to have his name attached to this record.

Rating:

Zachary Houle is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction, and the recipient of a writing arts grant from the City of Ottawa. He has had journalism published in SPIN magazine, The National Post (Canada), Canadian Business, and more.


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