PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Death By Chocolate: self-titled

Dave Heaton

Death By Chocolate

Death By Chocolate

Label: Jetset
US Release Date: 2001-01-23

Death By Chocolate's debut, self-titled CD opens with a woman's voice, that of teenage lead singer Angela Faye Tillett, stating a color and then a series of things she associates with it: "Mustard yellow / marinas and Volvos / waistcoats and snug nylon polo necks...deadly gas and the sound of cardboard tearing." Five of these 30-second bits run as a thread through the CD, linking the tracks while furthering the basic theme of the disc: observing and list-making.

The second track has Tillett listing numbers and the objects she associates with them, in a sing-song way, to lightly psychedelic, organ-dominated music (a lowbrow comparison: The music, here and throughout, sounds like the quick segues in the Austin Powers films, the ones where 1960s fashionplates do goofy little dances). It also sounds like the stylistic, pretty pop of the Songs for the Jet Set compilations, the most recent of which Death By Chocolate contributed two songs to.

A later song, "A B & C", has Tillett defining words, one for each letter of the alphabet. In general, Death By Chocolate is all about outlining the world around us, from the silly to the serious. They take fun, fanciful pop music backdrops and put the world on top of it, via glimpses, lists and word associations.

On "The Land of Chocolate", Tillett delivers an all-over-the-place poem about chocolate, with descriptions, recipes and stream-of-consciousness litanies, like this: "Kit Kats, um, crunch / instant satisfaction / familiar and all expectations fulfilled / nostalgia in chocolate." On "The Salvador Dali Murder Mystery", there's two overlapping vocal tracks, with stories and passages waiting to be deciphered. Those two tracks deliver the essence of Death by Chocolate. They project both the aura of a child's innocent view of life and that of a sly, walking mystery enticing you to determine what all of this is about.

Death By Chocolate dive even further into surrealism and pop culture through three fun and unusual covers: Dudley Moore's "The LS Bumble Bee", Sally Field's "Who Needs Wings to Fly?" from The Singing Nun, and one of my all-time-favorite songs, Cat Stevens' "If You Want to Sing Out Sing Out", from Harold and Maude. That last song fits as more than just a pop culture allusion. Harold and Maude brilliantly commented on life, how we look at it and what we do with it, and that song was a perfect encapsulation of the movie's theme. By touching on everything from Pope Gregory I to ice cold lemonade, Death By Chocolate are similarly describing the world around us in a way that highlights its myriad dimensions and the freedom that comes with that fact.

A delightfully silly and cute work of music, Death By Chocolate's CD is simultaneously inspiring and important. It's easy to tell listeners what to think; it's more rewarding when artists show us the world through their eyes. Death By Chocolate has done the latter, and done so in a way that wakes you up, both to the joys of pop music and, as cheesy as it might sound, to the joys of life.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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