Try this. Play Cup by Part Chimp at the softest volume possible on your stereo, the place on the dial where you can hardly hear a thing. (If you go to a lot of concerts, this may be somewhere in the middle.) Does it not still sound almost unbearably loud? How do they do that? Somehow Part Chimp, the noise-rock-sludge-distorters from London, have divorced the whole concept of volume from loudness. Even three miles away and surrounded by a yard-thick wall of cotton batting, this would annihilate.
That’s a good thing, by the way.
Part Chimp formed in 2000 in London around a core of Tim Cedar (guitar and vocals), Jon Hamilton (drums) and Nick Prior (bass). Iain Hinchcliff joined slightly later, adding a second guitar. Prior left in 2004, though he plays on the first three songs of this album. In America, most people know Part Chimp, if they know them at all, through their relationship with Mogwai, whose members have produced Part Chimp albums, released their records in Europe (on Rock Action), and toured with them.
Cup is the third full-length from Part Chimp, a collection of singles, alternate takes, b-sides, and rarities. It is, perhaps, only a stopgap between proper albums, but still worth your attention for three reasons. First, it will catch you up, in a major way, with what Part Chimp has been doing for the last seven years. Second, it will save you a lot of time tracking down multiple Rock Action 7” releases. And third, it rocks in a completely unadulterated, uncompromising way. Production values, dynamic shifts, and subtleties be damned. This is the hard stuff.
Consider “New Cross”, blatantly upping the ante mid-album, with its four-battering drums and adrenaline-crazed, distortion-bent guitar riffs. Singer Cedar howls in the spaces between bulldozer guitar chords; it’s a like a demented metal call and response, with the guitar doing the call and the singer answering. Sometime contributor Joe Totale gets a bass solo right at the middle, reconfiguring the guitar riff on the low end, so that it becomes less crazed and more ominous.
Most of these tracks are available elsewhere, two of them on Part Chimp’s last regular album, I Am Come. Two of these—“30,000,000,000 People” and “Bring Back the Sound”—are fractionally fuzzier and more chaotic here than in their original versions. Still even in the Cup iteration, “30,000,000,000 People” seems about as close to melodic as Part Chimp ever comes. There’s a melody under the cut’s head-snapping guitar riff and march-like drums, a song that’s bruised with noise but still functioning as a song. “Crush the Wild Octave,” from a split 7” (with Joeyfat), is just as good, punk rants over crushing, brutal, beautiful guitars, that seem to splinter volume into rainbows of distorted sound.
The front half of the album is better than the back end, with the weak point coming in “And Hell Is Behind Me”. This ten-minute cut starts with a taped phone message and evolves into big shapeless washes of feedback noise. It’s not terrible, but definitely overstays its welcome. It’s a relief when “Wild Honey Pie”, from a BBC tribute to Lennon and McCartney, burns the place right to the ground. It’s maybe McCartney’s strangest composition ever, a slap-and-tickle shuffle of detuned guitars and whimsical vocals. Part Chimp reduces the piece to flaming lump of metal, guitars shimmering white hot around the molten core.
The main problem with Part Chimp is the sense that you’re only half hearing what they’re doing, that somewhere under the unyielding barrages of guitar heaviness, there’s a world of nuance and art. The songs are viscerally exciting, but just out of reach. You can’t quite get a grip on them no matter how loud or soft you play them—though you get a glimpse, now and then, of something intriguing under the fuzz.