Review Summary: Chevelle do nothing in 2011
Hats off to Chevelle for having been an anomaly in the music industry. Why, because of their unique, sexy sound? Uh, no. It's a little bigger than that - though the sound's pretty tight, in general, I admit. Chevelle were an anomaly in the industry because since entering the mainstream in 2002 with their smash hit "The Red" the band has remained true to that
sound yet has varied it from release to release. Which is fu
cking hard to do if you happen to be a mainstream-radio staple - just ask Linkin Park
, Rise Against
, or Fall Out Boy
Don't agree? Well, look at Chevelle's releases since '02: Wonder What's Next
, the foundation of their sound for the decade to follow, right; This Type of Thinking
, the generally faster and more abstract lyrically follow-up; Vena Sera
, the studio experimental and, gasp, acoustic and electric guitar-mixing breath of fresh air; and then Sci-fi Crimes
, the rawer produced and world-conscious lyrical-mainstream hand-grab. Chevelle have done an excellent job of always sounding like themselves yet have never made the exact
same album twice, which has pleased fans, critics, and kept their singles fresh and current on the airwaves.
But then we have this, Hats Off to the Bull
, the worse album just short of actually being bad that Chevelle could have released. The first single and lead-off track, "Face to the Floor", spells out one of the album's main problems from the onset: a lazy guitar riff, a boring chorus, and lyrics revolving around money and its leaking into the public, or something. Great. But it's no "The Red", "Vitamin R", or even "Jars". In fact, it's Chevelle's worst single yet; and as the band's singles are most often stand-out tracks on the album that they come from, we have a problem.
Thankfully the ironically-titled "Same Old Trip" saves the day with a catchy chorus, memorable guitar riff and verse structure, and these lovely (new) harmonizing vocals.
Then it all quaintly goes to hell as the rest of Hats Off to the Bull
plays on, upset after upset from there. "Pinata" has the makings to truly be awesome with its face-to-the-floor (haha), driving riff, and then the chorus suddenly crashes the momentum with an eerie sense of familiarity. Flip back to Sci-fi Crimes
' "Roswell Spell", if you will, cut the tempo of the prior in half, and sadly you have its twin. "Envy" spends half of its time saying nothing, and once things heat up - err, the track ends. That's it. Cool. "Ruse", "Arise", "Revenge", and "Clones" (though the last one is almost pretty sweet with its aggressive bite) fall into the hated category of just being Chevelle songs: they do nothing besides being Chevelle songs. You know the sound, and that's it.
"Prima Donna" is Hats Off to the Bull
's acoustic piece, and it joins with last album's "Highland's Apparition" as showing Chevelle kicking ass in a slow, un-rocking territory. Background harmonizing vocals compliment Pete Loeffler's lead vocals here with something Middle Eastern flowing throughout the undercurrent of the track. Though a risky choice, Epic might do well to choose this as the ballad-single to be released in the coming months once "Face to the Floor" gets the hell off the radio. And the sooner the better.
To be honest, lead singer Pete Loeffler needs to release an acoustic, solo album; it would be massive. And it would also give Chevelle a chance to step back and get on track with being their usual consistent selves. What, they aren't themselves on Hats Off to the Bull
? Not exactly: this sounds like Chevelle being Chevelle, too much so, actually. But the band have lost their initial mainstream anomaly-ness, if you follow me. They haven't pushed forward here in any way for the first time since 2002. All the songs, mind like two or so, do nothing interesting or memorable. So the question must be asked: Why did Chevelle even bother releasing this album?