Chicago based Chin Up Chin Up are activists of neo-folk/rock.
Their second release This Harness Can't Ride Anything,
produced by Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Engine,
Califone), has brackets of Britpop elements along classic
folk threads and modern rock stock. The album follows their 2002
self-titled EP and their full length debut album We Should
Have Never Lived Like We Were Skyscrappers from 2004 and is
dedicated to their late bass guitarist Chris Saathoff who
was killed on Valentine's Day that year by a drunk driver. Their
latest release blends classic and rock instrumentation with fabulous
ease, breaking through the demarcations that set the often polarized
styles apart in a way that is lauded by Cursive, Braid,
and Town Crier. Banjo, violin, cello, and harmonica mixed
with electric guitar and bass is what Chin Up Chin Up manages
with melodic flow.
The album starts off with streams of atmospheric country/folk
inlets on the title track exhibiting waves of guitar vibrations
sewn into the melody by the passages of synthesizer and cello.
Lead vocalist Jeremy Bolen has a Britpop lisp in his vocal
keys as his band mates Chris Dye on drums, Greg Sharp
on piano and synthesizer, Nathan Snydacker on guitar, and
Jesse Woghin on bass maintain an equal vitality in their
chord structures. "We've Got To Keep Running" is an
upbeat number with bobbing movements and a frolicking vocal percussion,
while "Islands Sink" has reflections of Britpop brush
strokes of an Editors sprint. "Mansioned" rolls
into soft rock atmospheres with harmonica interludes and undertones
of the cello and vibraphone. The folk/rock burrows of "I
Need A Friend With A Boat" bring out the piano lintels along
traces of violin and cello trebles and rock rhythms. The female
vocal harmonies of Laura Laurent with Bolen's voice are
assenting on "Landlocked Lifeguards," along the cozy
soft rock loges and crests, but are ruined by the screechy spikes
that knife into the melody sporadically.
The lyrical content is ingenious, abstract, and deeply personal
with lines from "Landlocked Lifeguards" like "Mirages
of grass clippings line my parking lot and eggshell walls line
my fence," which will keep you guessing what it all means.
Bolen's vocal melody changes shape with softer registers on
"Stolen Mountains" and draws out longer lengths on
the final track "Trophies For Hire" displaying diversity
and preventing his vocal measurements from becoming predictable.
The light xylophone chimes on "Trophies For Hire"
surface through the neo-folk/rock glades giving the tune a youthful
Youthfulness is usually not a characteristic of folk/rock - more
like melancholy fits the framework for the genre, but Chin Up
Chin Up puts a smiley face on folk/rock's sullen composure. Their
second release has a crossover appeal providing something that
everyone will like or at least will find homey and cozy about
1. This Harness Can't Ride Anything
2. Water Planes In Snow
3. We've Got To Keep Running
4. Islands Sink
6. I Need A Friend With A Boat
7. Blankets Like Beavers
8. Landlocked Lifeguards
9. Stolen Mountains
10. Trophies For Hire
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