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Review: Chapel Club – Surfacing

There is nothing more frustrating than the rigid constraints of categorical laziness deployed by ignorant pigeon-arse-holers. I never understand why some people insist The Smiths are perpetually miserable – I find them uplifting, deliciously witty, but tinged with melancholy. Dalston-based five piece Chapel Club have been bestowed with the descriptive burden of being ‘gloomy’, but there is more to this band and their highly anticipated debut album demonstrates this.

Opening with an atmospheric shimmering of Krautrock-inspired swirling synths, this ambient ditty is interrupted by the ferocious stomp of new single, Surfacing, a pulsing sonic eruption of disharmonious guitars, swathed in reverb, which channel the shoe-gazing signature of My Bloody Valentine. Fitzgerald standard ‘Dream a little Dream’ is spliced, and reworked as the chorus, delivered in Bowman’s distinct languid baritone, metamorphosing the old favourite, from chirpy to haunting. Epic swelling hooks and romantically-doomed lyrics are prevalent on familiar hit Five Trees, while the trademark jagged surge of guitars and sprawling wall of distortion continue on After Flood and White Knight Position. Seagulls and an ebbing tide serenely introduce The Shore, but this stillness is disturbed with the subjugating blizzard of cascading guitars and menacing backbeat, that provides an unsettling backdrop to Bowman’s seething lyrics, ‘You Liar, you coward, you snake’. It’s no longer sex on the beach, but venom, betrayal and disbelief. The next two tracks, musically and vocally, induce the distinctive monochrome-tinged nostalgia of the eighties North-West. The brooding allure and idiosyncratic jangle of Echo and the Bunnymen is notably present on the track Blind, while Bowman’s graciously melodic croon on Fine Light mirrors that of a young Morrissey. Old favourite, O Maybe I, is a reflective rock anthem which parades themes of frustration, sex and apathy (‘Or maybe I, should fuck around with someone’s wife’) alongside an exhilarating rush of soaring melodrama that climbs towards a thunderous crescendo.

Palace is a mesmerising mess of sparse dronescapes, brimming with maturity and muscle. Chapel Club have crafted an album which is not only gloomy (eugh) but hypnotic, exhilarating and bright, and now they just need to hone their material and build a legacy like those of their eclectic influences – that’s where the real test lies.

Surfacing is out on the 31st January on Loog Records.

-Ben Cullen

Photo: Ben Rayner

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