Music

Chook Race: Around the House

Photo: Julia Collis

Australian bedroom-pop outfit Chook Race put together a vibrant and hopeful breakthrough record.


Chook Race

Around the House

Label: Trouble in Mind
US Release Date: 2016-09-02
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

At approximately the one-minute mark of “Hard to Clean”, the first song on Around the House, one can fairly confidently know exactly what’s in store for the album’s next 27 minutes. The band’s jangly guitar riffs and playful harmonies give the songs a lightness and a familiarity. It’s intentionally loose and rough around the edges as though these Melbourne rockers are just pals playing an impromptu set in someone’s basement. At times the semi-intentional sloppiness can feel tired or amateurish, but more often it presents as charming.

The group sticks pretty close to the same sound and form through most of the album building driving rhythms around Matthew Liveriadis’ guitar twang. Everything is loose and every single line is blurred almost beyond recognition. The dual vocals of Liveriadis and Carolyn Hawkins often don’t match up rhythmically, other times the mix is so unstable that the low-end gets buried in muddiness while the guitar flies above and bites hard. The description may not sound appealing, but the band makes it work. They have the pop sensibility of Belle and Sebastian’s sensitive jangle-pop and the casual playing style of Parquet Courts’ unpolished punk.

Chook Race’s songwriting is also quite simple most of the time. Some of Around the House’s best songs have one verse that Liveriadis and Hawkins repeat with varying levels of intensity. Take the album’s driving midpoint “At Your Door” for example. Liveriadis sings, “I’ll build a house out of wood and clay / The only tools you need to get away / With hands like magic I’ll turn that soil to crop / But in two short years I’ll receive a knock / At my door, at my door” and then repeats that sequence with a few very slight variations. It’s a track with great energy, a solid riff, and a lyrical story that’s simple but effective. The same is true of “Hard to Clean” and “Pictures of You”.

The album's major weak points mostly stem from the band getting too far down one rabbit hole or another. “Eggshells” is somehow off in a way that brings the mood down and the serious story of a damaged relationship adds to that feeling. With the bouncing lightness on the rest of the album, it’s just out of place and it takes to long to get back to where it started. And “Lost the Ghost”, which has some of the album’s best guitar riffs, finds the band repeating themselves a few too many times without adding anything new to the sound or the words.

At times these missteps feel like the trio is trying to change the tone at bad times or in ineffective ways. “Pink & Grey”, however, is a tone shift at the perfect moment and in a way that suits the band. The song drops the drums and instead focuses on a dynamic moving bass line and pleasant harmonies without going too long. They still play it fast and loose with the vocal deliveries, but the mood changes and allows the two singers to work together in a different and more complex way. From there the album is able to ramp back up to a climax and a satisfying resolution.

Around the House isn’t Chook Race’s true first album, but for all it’s casual production and fun nature, it does sound like a work made with the intention of being something that turns heads. For fans of the lo-fi jangly sound, Chook Race should fit right in, and even for those outside of that scene, the band has something to offer in the way of accessible, fast-paced music. All they ask is that you come for a good time and don’t take anything too seriously.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Film

The Cyclops and the Sunken Place: Narrative Control in 'Watchmen' and 'Get Out'

Hollywood is increasing Black representation but Damon Lindelof and Jordan Peele challenge audiences to question the authenticity of this system.

Featured: Top of Home Page

'Breathing Through the Wound' Will Leave You Gasping for Air

As dizzying as Víctor Del Árbol's philosophy of crime may appear, the layering of motifs in Breathing Through the Wound is vertiginous.

Music

12 Essential Kate Bush Songs

While Kate Bush is a national treasure in the UK, American listeners don't know her as well. The following 12 songs capture her irrepressible spirit.

Music

Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish Replace Form with Risk on 'Interactivity'

The more any notions of preconceived musicality are flicked to the curb, the more absorbing Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish's Interactivity gets.

Music

Martin Green's Junkshop Yields the Gritty, Weird Story of Britpop Wannabes

Featuring a litany of otherwise-forgotten budget bin purchases, Martin Green's two-disc overview of coulda-been Britpop contenders knows little of genre confines, making for a fun historical detour if nothing else.

Reviews

Haux Compellingly Explores Pain via 'Violence in a Quiet Mind'

By returning to defined moments of pain and struggle, Haux cultivates breathtaking music built on quiet, albeit intense, anguish.

Reviews

'Stratoplay' Revels in the Delicious New Wave of the Revillos

Cherry Red Records' six-disc Revillos compilation, Stratoplay, successfully charts the convoluted history of Scottish new wave sensations.

Reviews

Rising Young Jazz Pianist Micah Thomas Debuts with 'Tide'

Micah Thomas' Tide is the debut of a young jazz pianist who is comfortable and fluent in a "new mainstream": abstraction as well as tonality, freedom as well as technical complexity.

Music

Why Australia's Alice Ivy Doesn't Want to Sleep

Alice Ivy walks a fine line between chillwave cool and Big Beat freakouts, and her 2018 debut record was an electropop wonder. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, she tries to keep the good vibes going with a new record decked out in endless collaborations.

Books

Five Women Who Fought the Patriarchy

Whether one chooses to read Square Haunting for the sketches of the five fascinating women, or to understand how misogyny and patriarchy constricted intellectual and public life in the period, Francesca Wade's book is a superb achievement.

Film

Director Denis Côté on Making Film Fearlessly

In this interview with PopMatters, director Denis Côté recalls 2010's Curling (now on Blu-Ray) discusses film as a "creative experiment in time", and making films for an audience excited by the idea of filling in playful narrative gaps.

Music

Learning to Take a Picture: An Interview With Inara George

Inara George is unafraid to explore life's more difficult and tender moments. Discussion of her latest music, The Youth of Angst, leads to stories of working with Van Dyke Parks and getting David Lee Roth's musical approval.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.