Better than the Usual Sturm (Und Drang)
First impression: GRRRR! ANGST!
I think we’ve heard this before. All the familiar elements are here: downtuned, sludgy guitars, big heavy drums, a speed that never quite goes past medium, and a vocalist who’s just so intense that all of his hard G’s sound like K’s and his D’s sound like T’s. Have you guessed yet? That’s right, Chevelle’s This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) is a nu-metal album. Perhaps an apology is in order for labeling them with that most heinous of made-up musical genres, but that’s what they get for putting parentheses in their album title.
Chevelle is a band made up of three brothers: Peter Loeffler on vocals and guitar, Joseph Loeffler on bass, and Samuel Loeffler banging the drums. However, either “Loeffler” wasn’t a catchy enough name or there’s some sort of tribute to the Ramones going on here, because everyone’s last name is listed in the booklet as “Chevelle”. Maybe next time they can be Petey, Joey, and Sammy Chevelle.
But I digress.
Get past the silliness with the names, get past the parentheses in the title, get past the fact that you probably swore you’d never, ever enjoy anything that came from a genre whose first word is “nu”, and you may just notice that lo and behold, the Chevelle boys have created a seriously solid album in This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In). Anyone who still listens to rock radio has likely heard the lead single “Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)”, which, in addition to another set of unnecessary parentheses, manages to work a lovely falsetto line and a non-traditional 6/8 time signature into a diatribe on the slave-like nature of Ritalin Nation. It’d be an odd choice for a single if it weren’t so damn good, achieving a subtle sense of build that most bands of this ilk can only fake with contrived loud-soft dynamics. The even better news is that “Vitamin R” is one of those rare singles that manages to be indicative of the album as a whole, as Chevelle has created the rare new modern rock album that places at least as much emphasis on melody and harmony as it does on its pervasive attitude problem.
This newfound commitment to melody manifests itself most obviously in the slower moments on the disc. “Panic Prone” features electric guitars sans distortion for once, and Peter Loeffler’s mostly-restrained vocal line allows him the room to absolutely explode on the bridge. Album closer “Bend the Bracket” is an acoustic number that’s just as impressive, with understated percussion and appropriately dark and brooding lyrics (“The war is on, too weak to move / Call it off, sorry refused”) that could very well turn it into a hit in the vein of Aaron Lewis’ live acoustic rendition of “Outside”. Even opener “The Clincher”, one of the more hard-rocking tracks on the album, takes the time to quiet down a bit before heading into a chorus that never fails to culminate in massive, tuneless screams à la Chester Bennington.
Indeed, the album’s only major failures happen in its second half, where the band chooses to think less and rock more, falling gracelessly into rock clichés that were done far better ten years ago by Tool. “Tug-O-War” is perhaps the worst offender, proof that all the angular three-note riffs in the world won’t get you very far without a song attached. “To Return”, the very next song, goes the opposite direction, attempting an epic and ending up with wholly unmemorable dreck. Even one of the strongest songs on the album, “Get Some”, sees soaring choruses and a masterful time change marred by the utterly sophomoric title and chorus.
Still, it’s hard to fault Chevelle for forgetting its brains on the faster tracks, as it’s very likely the album could just as easily have been criticized as overly slow and plodding without their inclusion. As it is, This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) is one of the best albums the nu-scene has to offer. Generally, the lyrics are intelligent, the melodies are spot on, the rhythm section is straight-up tight, and Peter Loeffler has one hell of a voice. Sure, the emotional range starts at “venomous” and never gets happier than “despondent”, but that’s a limitation of the genre at least as much as it is the band. This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) shows us a band that’s come a long way from trying to force words like “Much like suffocating” into its choruses, a band for whom musical growth is obviously a priority. These things make Chevelle a band worth listening to, at least for today.
But guys, next time, seriously—lay off the parentheses.