Music

The Chap: Mega Breakfast

Looks like a mega breakout for one of the UK's most creative and promising bands.


The Chap

Mega Breakfast

Label: Ghostly International
US Release Date: 2008-07-01
UK Release Date: 2008-05-26
Website
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

In this writer’s opinion, the British music scene is in sore need of a kick in the britches. The hype machine that drives London and elsewhere seems to spit out bands faster than they have time to develop, and stylistic outliers such as Test Icicles and the Klaxxons get burned out trying to carry a “scene” with just one album. I suppose this is more of a complaint with the system of promotion rather than the music itself, as there is wonder to be had in the periphery. A prime example of a band being uniquely and vitally British is the Chap out of London. They approach the pop song like insane chemists, mixing acids and bases, oxides and carbon dioxides, until the result finally blows up in their faces, their desired result. After two strong full-lengths, including 2005’s excellent Ham, they have come up with Mega Breakfast, their best yet and one of the most distinctive pop albums of the year.

Whereas Ham was slightly marred by a slow middle section that played away from the strengths of the Chap, Mega Breakfast is a continuously fun experience. They kick things off with “They Have a Name”, a literal beckoning to move your feet as they intone, “hearthrob hits the dance floor” over a hard-hitting beat, cheesy orchestra hits, and layered vocal backing. It sounds like something Timbaland would come up with if he was from Leeds as opposed to Virginia. The mixture of strings and electronic elements in “Fun and Interesting” brings to mind fellow UK natives Tunng, though The Chap have grander things in mind with a huge chorus begging a cloner to “clone another me”.

The variety of sounds and influences on Mega Breakfast is dizzying and intoxicating, though it is the smart arrangements and ear for melody that make the Chap a great band. “Carlos Walter Wendy Stanley” has a simple vocal hook that belies the odd harmonies in the background, and the rollicking middle section crashes in from left field. The quirky guitar lines and Morricone-esque chanting added to the mix are just icing on a strange cake (butterscotch-kiwi perhaps?). The soft-rock guitar at the heart of “Surgery” seems humorous at first, until the male-female vocal combo of Johannes Von Weizsacker and Claire Hope kicks in and complements it perfectly. Only after a few listens do you notice the brilliant reprise of its mildly gospel line “where’s my soul gone” in the full-blown church chorus of the penultimate track “Wuss Wuss”.

At some points the witty humor of the band threatens to derail their compositions, as in the odd choice to impersonate David Bowie in the single, “Proper Rock”. Yet their lyrics and new-wave guitar riffs are at their most pointed here, and they form an integrated plea: “proper rock, don’t disappear too”. “The Health of Nations” almost looses the momentum of the album, but the beautiful melody that is echoed with strings serves more as a breath of air. The album works as a well-mixed DJ set, with appropriate valleys and peaks.

The album cover is perhaps a nod to Jeff Koons’ balloon animal sculptures, with a Chap twist: there’s chocolate inside those things! They have assimilated so much music, high art and low, that the boundaries between them must seem both ambiguous and laughable. Their music is so fun to listen to that the intellectual and technical know-how it took to make it is always in the background. Whether or not the Chap is part of a scene or a greater trend is beside the point; with Mega Breakfast they have proven that though bands will come and go, there is always room for mad scientists to come along and blow it all up.

8

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image