Alex Schmalex Reviews: Chief Bromide's Chief Bromideland
Chief Bromide is from Cleveland. If you've never been to Cleveland, you're missing out on one of the great American experiences. Anyways... Chief Bromide is from this industrial monster of the city. Let me state my preference for bands who share vocal responsibilities: I prefer it. Chief Bromide pulls this off as most members (Matt Valerino, Lauren Voss, and I believe I saw [I'm gonna mess this up, 'cuz I'm running off of my live-show memory, which tends to float around in the atmosphere a bit...] Krissy Brannan doing time with the vocals) share the vocal-sphere. You know those awesome songs by The Band where they all sing and switch and trade, it's kinda like that. So... imagine the songwriting aesthetic of The Band, paired with the distorted guitar melodies of Built to Spill, add the atmospherics of basically any album that you love, and you land in Chief Bromide's space. As for the album itself, well, here it is: when you open the box, you get a fold out game of Candyland converted to Chief Bromide standards (hence the title), if you don't remember Candyland, go find that little game of cards and colors where luck is the only factor in your success. I actually can't bring myself to cut out the pieces that come with the thing, I like it so much I wanna hang it on my wall. But in any case, I'll analyze the relationship between the two:
Candyland sets itself up as a sort of children's sugar utopia, where getting stuck in a puddle of mud would suck if that puddle wasn't made of chocolate. Replace the candy cane trees with cigarette butt trees, the chocolate puddle's with industrial waste puddles, and sugar plums with pills, and your in Chief Bromideland. I'm not talking about the visual landscape of the album art, but of the sonic-scape of the album. The movements from piano guided melodies to stereo-guitar lines to the sweet resonance that slide guitar strikes in the human core, those movements into the fast tempo songs like "Proverbs for Paranoids" that push the other side of the dynamic spectrum show off the space in between melodic structure and noise. All here in Chief Bromideland.
Back in the day, sounds used to be associated with the region they were born in: The Nashville sound, the Motown sound, the New York sound, the British sound, the California sound... whatever. Industrial places like Cleveland have spawned a sort of sound which mixesthe sound scape bewteen lo-fi and hi-fi recording. An example of this, that I can think of off the top of my head, would come from the Black Keys use of what they called "medium-fi" recording (coming from neighboring Ohio city Akron). While the essence of the music itself comes from outside of a sort of regional binding, the influences from the songs coming from all different types of garage, psychedelia, and straight up rock and roll, the recording and sound itself mixes the low fi tenacity with the hi fi ability to sound full. The first track, "Plastic Bag Girl," is a good example of this, a blur of vocals which sort of creeps below the instrumental surface. While whiny folk who fuss and pout over the inability to understand every word might not like this, I believe that there is a place where the vocals should be noted more for their blend and effect rather than being on the soapbox of music all the time. Awesomely enough, this record switches from the underlying vocal to the prominent vocal, sometimes even in the same songs. It's little sound ticks like this that show that Chief Bromide is paying full attention to the audio space which a whole song lives in, rather than relying on formulaic methods of recording and sound to produce and present their songs.
Ted Vril, whom I met when we played in Cleveland this summer, played his songs through a sea of circuitry and wires to produce a live sound which was reminiscent of hearing songs over distant AM radios. While he could have just sat there and played his songs straight at us and stared at our little eyes and what not... he created a sort of attention to the sound as a whole rather than just the songs themselves, blending songwriting with the duty formerly held onto by a "producer" or "engineer" or something. This, I believe is the new form of songwriting, the attention to both the songs and the quality of the sound as a whole. Chief Bromideland, I would consider this album to be in the "industrial city sound" in that manner, the space in which one wades through industrial toil and the search for bliss, the clear and the unclear.
In any case, check 'em out, they hot stuff.
Chief Bromide =Krissy Brannan, Matt Valerino, Lauren Voss, Scott Davidson, John Panza, Jessica Julian. They're in that picture above. And below.