Music

The Chalets: Check In

Cutesy and vapid rock music from fun-loving, electro-novelty Irish band.


The Chalets

Check In

Label: Setanta
US Release Date: 2007
UK Release Date: 2005-10-10
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The Chalets, a young Irish five-piece, get a U.S. release for their debut, Check In, a year and a half after originally unleashing themselves on the UK scene. The cynic in me asks: why bother? The Chalets are two girls and three guys from Dublin, Ireland. The band members share a design/fashion background, which might make you remember Cansei De Ser Sexy, and apparently the band's live show is similarly (if not quite as brazenly) filled with sexual overtones and old-fashioned showmanship. But further than matching cutesy outfits, a successful stab at the electro-novelty thing requires some on-record personality. That's where the Chalets just slightly fall down – and in pop music, a stumble can mean a mile.

As long as we're free-associating, 'Irish' and 'beer' are probably inseparable, 'fun' not far behind. And even though bands like Cranberries and U2 don't immediately justify that equation music-wise, a newer crop of indie outfits including La Rocca seem to be more comfortable embracing that Irish love of good times -- their sweet, entirely conventional "Sketches (Of a Twenty Something Life)" a prototype of the form. The Chalets are aiming at something more mainstream than most of La Rocca's tunes, a kind of subtle electro-pop informed by '60s girl groups and reliant in large measure overdriven bass lines and vocal harmonies. A prototypical track is "No Style", which sounds like a revved-up Belle & Sebastian. But the Chalets stop too early on each phrase, as if they're afraid to commit; at least the English band's convincing in the way it spins out its anachronistic pleasures.

I got the feeling, listening to Check In, that the Chalets are to rock-pop what Young Love is to straight electro -- all sheen with no soul. The group's alternating male-female vocals, layered group harmonies and familiar chord progressions are all strong individual elements of a sound, but that pesky obsession with fun somehow de-substantializes everything. "Red High Heels" uses a beat from the Strokes, but the female multi-tracked verse and the overly-simple, overly-familiar chorus grate. I guess that's pop, but it's also why we turn away from pop to something more interesting. Even in their more laid-back moments, like on the mid-tempo "Gogo Don't Go", the sparseness of bass + voice lacks substance. That song almost reaches to a new plane with a buzzy electro interlude, but like so much throughout the disc, it's a fragment that's dabbled at, an embellishment, rather than the substance of a more inventive pop sound.

The group seems, too, to be a little unlucky in track selection. "Sexy Mistake", a soft-edged track that tries for CSS's disinterested sexiness and fails, repeats almost exactly the feel of the track immediately prior. That's one of the CD's better cuts, "Nightrocker", and the back-to-back placement is to the detriment of the better song. The album's best song, "Love Punch", comes so late on the disc you may already have switched off -- mentally, if not physically. But it's worth a listen, that one song; the most brutal by far of any of the Chalets' songs, "Love Punch" adds wobble to the bassline and bile to the lyrics.

There's a conceit to Check In, which has to do with travel, though it's never really developed past the point of song titles. The train-signal "oohs" on too-short filler "Arrivals" might point to the truism that we're always traveling, in our lives -- something like that. But deep statements aren't (and shouldn't be) a forte for a band that includes a track called "Two Chord Song". Which is as it's described, by the way.

The Chalets' debut effort may be good for a few radio singles, the casually heard and hardly noted fodder that fuels the working day of so many, but Check In's too half-hearted, too superficial to bother any discerning listener for long. Fun's all well and good, but you deserve something a bit more substantial.

4

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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