Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Chin Up Chin Up--This Harness Can't Ride Anything (2006)

Artist-Chin Up Chin Up
Album-This Harness Can't Ride Anything
Release Date-Oct 10, 2006
Label-Mock & Roll
Genre/Style-Indie Rock

All Music Guide Rating-90(Out of 100)
Alternative Press-80
Mojo Rating-80
Prefix Magazine-80 Rating-75
Pitchfork Rating-73
Personal Rating-Recommended!

Biography-Chicago avant-pop combo Chin Up Chin Up was formed in the fall of 2001 by former Punjab singer/guitarist Jeremy Bolen and ex-Nymb singer/guitarist Nathan Snydacker. Bassist Chris Saathoff and drummer Chris Dye completed the original lineup, which spent eight months writing original songs and honing its textured, sinuous sound before ever playing its first live date. In May 2002 Chin Up Chin Up recorded a self-titled six-song EP, issued on its own Record Label imprint early the following year. In early 2004 the group completed a four-song demo, on February 13 celebrating the accomplishment by attending a record release show for fellow Windy City band the Ponys at the local club the Empty Bottle; around 1:00 in the morning, while exiting the concert with his girlfriend, Saathoff was struck by a drunk driver, who never stopped his vehicle and dragged the bassist's body for nearly two blocks. Saathoff was pronounced dead at the scene, and his parents established the Christopher Saathoff Foundation in his memory, recruiting the surviving members of Chin Up Chin Up to headline a pair of benefit gigs — Quinn Goodwillie of Chicago's Mt. St. Helens filled in on bass, and the shows were so warmly received that the band decided to continue, sending the completed demo to dozens of labels before settling on local imprint Flameshovel. During the recording sessions that followed, Saathoff's bass tracks from the demo tape were isolated, with new songs created around them — the resulting LP, We Should Have Never Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers, followed in the fall of 2004, around the time that Appleseed Cast bassist Marc Young was named Saathoff's permanent replacement.

Review-Although the comparatively straightforward guitar pop of the Chills, the Clean and the Bats is what broke through to the biggest American college radio audience, a trawl through the back catalog of the great New Zealand indie Flying Nun Records reveals a ton of smaller bands working in considerably different musical circumstances. The comparison comes up because the second album by American indie rockers Chin Up Chin Up shares most of its musical DNA with folks like the Tall Dwarfs, Look Blue Go Purple and the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, even if these Chicago-based youngsters have probably never heard of those groups. A considerably more pop-oriented album than the band's quirky debut, This Harness Can't Ride Anything has a thin, trebly sound that emphasizes the dry, scratchy guitars and rickety, Moe Tucker-style drums underneath Jeremy Bolen's occasionally yelpy vocals, but all of those potentially off-putting elements are put in service of a newfound interest in traditional pop-song structures. This mixture of clattering, ramshackle arrangements and smartly put-together tunes, best heard on the nervy, breathless jangle of "Water Planes In Snow" (a terrific song that — no kidding — recalls the early days of the Go-Betweens) and the surging Motorik drone of "Islands Sink," is an intriguing new direction for a band that previously seemed more interested in artsy, diffident post-rock.


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