With great power comes great responsibility.
Before we get to the nitty gritty of discussing the actual music contained within this UK quartet’s sophomore album, let's briefly deliberate their aethestic qualities. First, consider the name. Part Chimp. It's a beautifully animalistic name, capturing the band's inherent primal power. Next, the album name: I Am Come. A Neanderthal's proclamation that is as much a statement as a threat and certainly one you'd be foolish to ignore. And finally, there is the album cover. It's a crude drawing of man who looks to be sending a lightning bolt into the eye of a dragon. COOL. If I were in high school, it would definitely be the sort of thing I'd carefully duplicate on the cover of my English binder. TAKE THAT JOHN KNOWLES!
Putting the disc into my CD player, I have to admit I was excited. Chimps, dragons, lightning -- I was had already practically submitted to being bludgeoned by the band's reputedly ferocious sound. And certainly, any band on Mogwai's own Rock Action label had to be worthy of standing alongside those Glaswegian giants. However, it is with great disappointment, and some bewilderment, that I must report that I Am Come -- while definitely loud -- is surprisingly dull.
To be sure, the band crank their amp's to Spinal Tap's mythical 11 from track one and don't let up. Disc opener "Bakahatsu" wastes no time in separating the ladies from the men. It's practically like the band is saying, "If you can't deal with a solid ninety seconds of white guitar noise and unending cymbal washes, then please turn off the disc and go back to listening to your Belle & Sebastian, sissy." The disc's first real song, "War Machine" dials back the volume momentarily and actually delivers some melody and (gasp) cleanly strummed guitars. But it isn't long before the band kicks up racket and threatens to blow their speakers. However, the album doesn't waste time in revealing itself to being unforgivably repetitive. The quiet-LOUD dynamic, or in the case of this band sometimes, the LOUD-LOUD approach, is not new, and without bringing anything new to the table, it's hard to find a reason to listen to the disc.
Just the other night I was watching the rave satire It's All Gone Pete Tong when I heard ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead's "Richter Scale Madness". I hadn't heard it in a little while, but from the opening muddy chords, I immediately remembered why I loved it and why it's one of the band's finest songs. Instead of maxing out their considerable power all at once, the song builds relentlessly, exploding into the Fourth of July fireworks that is the chorus, complete with Pete Townsend windmill guitar blasts. The reason I bring this up is that both bands' influences -- Sonic Youth, Slint, My Bloody Valentine -- are pretty much the same. But the difference in the execution of style makes one band a compelling listen and the other dully predictable.
For young kids who have yet to discover the riches of '90s guitar rock, there are far worse starting places than Part Chimp. Cool artwork, a badass name, and even parent-frowning track names ("Punishment Ride", "Do You Believe in Waiting to Die!", "Hello Bastards"), and yes, an undeniably primeval sound will bring enjoyment to those who've never heard something like it before. But for the rest of us with Daydream Nation, Loveless, and Songs About Fucking on our CD shelves, I Am Come is at least a solid decade too late.