Chastity Belt 2024
Photo: Jena Feldman / Terrorbird

Chastity Belt Ruminate on Insecurities on ‘Live Laugh Love’

Chastity Belt are dovish and disarming on Live Laugh Love, which explores the self. It’s unadulterated self-expression in its purest form.

Live, Laugh, Love
Chastity Belt
Suicide Squeeze
29 March 2024

It’s rare to see a group that floats thoughts of dying in their music without coating their songs in melodrama. It’s equally rare to witness said musical artists simultaneously apply humor to their songs without contrivance. Usually, something feels forced, but this isn’t the case with indie pop rockers Chastity Belt, who has embodied a silly yet sad disposition since their first LP, 2013’s No Regerts. Their new album, Live Laugh Love, follows suit.

The joke album name fits Chastity Belt’s humorous style, along with the wacky inflatable flailing tube man on the album cover. It’s a silly phrase to them, and they seem to feel at home when being able to goof around. That said, Live Laugh Love, their fifth LP and first release since signing with Suicide Squeeze after leaving Hardly Art (both labels rooted in Seattle), holds a strong sense of sincerity. The Walla Walla, Washington band finds a natural balance between self-aware, inwardly critical lyrics and subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor. Live Laugh Love is full of moments of hopefulness mixed with despairing thoughts, but never in a way that seems artificial. It all meshes together genuinely.

What’s refreshing about Chastity Belt’s music is its emotional intelligence. Their modesty, honesty, and willingness to dig into deeply personal issues are engrossing elements of their songwriting. It’s refreshing, slightly taboo, and brave to see and hear a band address what makes them feel socially deficient and utterly feeble. Chastity Belt are one of a handful of pop-rock groups that make some of the saddest songs in contemporary music (pushing deeper than the typical sentimentality and gushiness of pop and rock). Still, no one else seems to own it the way they do.

Lyrically, Live Laugh Love speaks for the pain of being a modest introvert in a social world and having to comply with social norms. Much like previous releases, these songs explore ideas around low self-esteem, social fails, and the following self-abasement, all intermingled with bright, softhearted guitar tones and uplifting progressions. The lead single, “Hollow”, is deeply relatable for introverts. It’s about the exhausting cycle of understanding yourself for a while and then losing your sense of identity for some time before finding it again.

The title of their third single, “Chemtrails”, refers to the widely laughed-about conspiracy theory. Still, the song is more about inadequacy, the tendency to apply too much weight to memories of distressing experiences, and never knowing when you’ll be comfortable or happy. Over the years, Chastity Belt have become very good at addressing and revealing their inner imperfections through song. 

Although their music is often tinted solemnly, Chastity Belt don’t seem interested in crying in public. They don’t want to make an exhibition of their tears. You can tell by the way they play their instruments. They’re playful and adventurous as if strolling through a park or riding bikes and enjoying each other’s company. Their music exudes friendship. The warm and feathery instrumentation of “Funny” and “Chemtrails” is endearing, and the latter’s persistently tumbling drum pattern rocks.

The up-tempo pop-rock appeal of “Kool-Aid” is further lifted by a lead guitar part that bends dreamily. “Blue” is a slower-tempo ballad with blithe guitar strums throughout, followed by the shoegaze-influenced guitars and crescendoing build of “Tethered.” Further demonstrating the members’ strong connection with each other is the way they trade off on vocal duty. Each sings lead on different tracks, and their varying voices add a sense of assortment to their music as well as equal standing within the band.

Considering how Chastity Belt all sing lead vocals and how lyrically singular the album is, they are on the same page regarding personal principles and philosophies. Casual mentionings of death and feeling like dying aren’t new to the group, and these mentionings appear on this record as well. They treat death as if it isn’t a weighty subject of something to fear but merely an occurrence or feeling that comes and goes. Each member seems to share the same feelings of self-doubt, self-consciousness, and the transience of self-awareness.

Although their music can inspire sadness and feelings of futility, Chastity Belt are dovish, disarming, and unhostile. Ultimately, like all their albums, especially 2017’s I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, Live Laugh Love is an exploration of the self. It is unadulterated self-expression in its purest form.

RATING 7 / 10