On Hats Off to the Bull, Chevelle’s sixth album, they return to their roots with the amazingly heavy first single, “Face to the Floor”, which has already become one of their biggest hits. Built on an amazing riff, the song sounds just like Chevelle of 2002, and in this day and age, that’s something that’s perfectly acceptable to listen to.
“Same Old Trip” takes things down a notch, but only for a bit—built on a nice, solid groove, the band continues along the same old path they’ve been treading for the last few years. But unlike, say, Static-X, who made the same album over and over again for over a decade, Chevelle are able to write catchy songs that linger in your head long after the CD is through spinning. The intro to “Ruse” sounds a bit like 2004’s “Vitamin R” but that’s where the similarities end. “Ruse” is more plodding and doesn’t really evolve beyond a great riff. You can credit producer Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Tool) with helping the band sound great while making up for any lags in the songwriting area.
Fortunately, “The Meddler” ends up sounding much better by almost building like a ballad, which a slow-ish intro and then leading into a blasting chorus. The song sounds tailor made for radio and if it wasn’t released as a single, it could be one of their biggest regrets. Overall, on tracks like “Piñata”, this album is Chevelle’s attempt to change things up a bit by slowing down the tempos and coming up with more than one or two great songs per album. It’s interesting to hear a band like this slowing things down so much and for the most part, succeeding in what they try.
The standout track on the album comes about halfway through with “Envy”, which has a delicate and melodic intro and an almost orchestral assault of drums throughout. Even after a decade-plus of slogging through the airwaves, Chevelle are still capable of surprising their fans with something new and fantastic. With “Envy”, Chevelle have written one of the coolest and most atmospheric rock tracks of 2011.
Then, on the other hand, songs like the title track just sound forced and come across without any reasoning for its existence at all. The song just has no feeling and sounds a tad out of place on the record. Perhaps turning it into a B-side would’ve been a better fit. “Arise” sounds a bit like “Envy” with its ambitions and is a decent enough song. Fortunately, it seems that with this album and this collection of songs that the band have gotten over the unevenness of their last few albums.
“Revenge” completes the trifecta that began with “Envy” and “Arise”, with a crescendo that seems to bring the album full circle. The biggest surprise on the record, however, comes with “Prima Donna”, a very lush sounding acoustic number, which, though it sounds a bit odd here, works because the band are honest and earnest about what they’re trying and it sounds real. The closing track, “Clones”, gets things back to a rocking end, but overall, this is their best collection of songs since 2002. Might I be able to say in closing, keep it up—the world could use more rock records like this in the future.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.