Chucklehead delivers keen hip-hop grooves on Fuzz
Summit Records.By Brian Hoffman
Low soothing grinding baselines issue forth from speakers on overdrive. Punctuated horns and funky guitar combine to weave an iridescent carpet of sound. A half dozen different genres of music melt together in the air, the whole growing to become more than the sum of its parts.
The Boston band Chucklehead started back in 1989 at Wesleyan University. Their first album, Big Wet Kiss, independently released in 1992, sold over ten thousand copies. Currently featuring Eben Levy on guitar and vocals, Brian Gottesman on keyboards and vocals, Erik Attkisson on drums, Huck Bennert on sax, percussion, and vocals, Meyer Statham on trombone and vocals, and Mick Demopoulos on bass, Chucklehead has produced a brilliantly diverse album, Fuzz. If you like Doobious Leghorn, also a local band, and/or Thumper, you should like Chucklehead.
The album, released last fall on Summit Records, takes a little something from the rock, R&B, hip-hop, and funk genres, puts them all in a blender and hits puree with a vengeance.
The title song kicks off the album with a one minute sample-laden mixture of keyboard and guitar welcoming the listener to the album: "Welcome one and all, short and tall to fuzz." The opening sample happens to be Leonard Nimoy stating "Brace Yourselves ... the area of penetration will no doubt be sensitive." Despite its short length, the mixing of samples, low vocals, keyboard and guitar make "Fuzz" a fitting opening for the album.
"Retrosexy", the second track on the album, details a party, where (presumably) the author, Brian Gottesman, checks out a retro-dressed woman: "Blooming daisies in swarming colors crazy/ Sing seduction from bells to bee-hive/ I'd love to kiss her, all polyester/ But my tongue is tied." The chorus "You're so Retrosexy, whoa so fine now/ Won't you go back in time to me/ Oh won't you go back in time to me" works especially well with the tone of the song. "Retrosexy" posesses a more distinctive disco flair than any of the other tracks on the album.
"Day Job" starts off well with some machinery samples, which stay in the background of the track for the first thirty seconds of the song, appearing at intervals throughout the rest. Some bright horn work and more samples build on top of the initial samples in the middle of the track. "Day Job" might have done well to continue and build more on the machinery samples (speaking from an industrially biased listening perspective).
"Bozack" has some good horn work and interesting rhyming going, with integrated guitar and harmony. Starting out with some quick keyboard, drum and vocal work, "Bozack" comes across as an especially light-hearted track, incorporating some good harmony and the ocassional low backgroud vocal.
On "We Can Work It Out", Chucklehead crafts an absolutely amazing, innovative reproduction of the Beatles tune of the same name. A pulsing beat, showing some clear industrial influence in its mixing in of keyboard bits, combined with some great vocal effects make this the choice track on the CD. The vocals croon forth as if they were sung from a distance, with lots of reverb. The song lifts itself up out of its groove with reverb vocals to a gain a sound more like some of the other tracks on the album, before once again plunging back into reverb vocals.
"Hell" comes across as an initially jazz/blues-influenced piece, slowly melting into a hip-hop production. Chucklehead keeps it interesting by mixing in some piano and horns to prevent a complete degeneration into a stock hip-hop production. "Hell" momentarily slows down a decently fast-paced album, letting the listener take a breather.
"Big Dumb Song" lowers a boom of guitar, samples and quick lyrics, countering "Hell". "Let's get stupid!" serves as a basic chant, while this mix pans the sampled word "Dumb" from ear to ear. Some interesting keyboard sounds and a cool guitar solo start around 2:30 into the track. "Big Dumb Song" started off the demo tape for Fuzz, but ended up as the seventh track on the album. This densely-integrated, multi-leveled carpet of sound inspires one to leap and thrash wildly around one's room with reckless abandon. Perhaps the closest parallel for this track would be a happy version of Ministry's "Test", the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" or something by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
"Flavorful Bouquet" starts out like a lounge song, with some jazz influence, cello and piano. The lyrics are hip-hop/rap again, sung by Eben Levy. The lyric of choice on this track is "You're lyrics is fishy like Fridays in Lent." This track departs from the others on the album in its uncharacteristic simplicity, focusing on the lyrics rather than a combination of the lyrics and music combined.
"Tug Boat" mixes some bright and airy horn work with some wonderfully pointless and perhaps leading lyrics. The track fills the air with a clear crisp tone, trumpet pouring forth from the stereo at points. Some low grinding keyboard and bass two minutes into the track contrast with the brightness of the other parts of the song. "Tug Boat" suceeds well as a glowingly light track.
"Try and Move Me" has some great guitar work around 1:30 and again at 2:30 into the track. The sax also come into the forefront of the song starting around 2:30. The lyrics of the song are, in contrast to some of the other tracks on the disc, very poignant: "I'm a man, I'm a man, you gotta understand/ I do what I must and I feel what I can/ If waves of emotion are causing a commotion/ I tense right up, stick my feet in the sand/ Try and move me, try and move me." The group harmonizes well toward the end of the song, through a pre-ending sudden silence into the final fade out.
All in all, Chucklehead's latest effort shows off the band members' extensive talents, proving their musical prowess with a distinctively bright and interesting work. "We Can Work It Out" wins hands down in terms of most powerful song, followed by the dense and loud "Big Dumb Song" in close second, right ahead of "Try and Move Me." On a scale of zero to ten, with a ten being, of course, Nine Inch Nails, and zero being the Lunachicks (who performed on the same night as an anti-climax to Doobious Leghorn and Thumper's great performance last semester at Strat's Rat), Chucklehead rates an 8.
Chucklehead will be playing at Mama Kin, the new club on Landsdowne Street, on Wednesday, March 15.