Chapel Club


Well, to return to recent themes, this week’s clutch of serious-faced and pallid young men Chapel Club deserve at least a little respect for not being White Lies, don’t they? It would be so easy, after all, for this good-looking, Paul Epworth-produced London quintet to just quietly give up any hope of producing anything of lasting worth and just watch the money roll in.

But tempted by the devil to the overcoat-clad easy life, Chapel Club waver fatally, one foot still on the mountaintop, the other pointing hesitantly down the righteous road. They want to make big tunes; they also want to be important. And so where Tom, Charles and Harry are all high-contrast hamfisted black and white (mainly Johnny Nice Painter black, the blaaaaack!) Chapel Club vacillate in tasteful greys and washed-out watercolours. As singer Lewis Bowman put it in a recent NME interview "dark has a lot of different shades".

We’re gently ushered in to their debut, ‘Palace’, by ‘Depths’, an instrumental intro track that recalls one of the Stone Roses’ backwards excursions. ‘Surfacing’, with its lyrical riff on ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ (the press release is oh-so-keen to inform us that the band will lose out on royalties for this) and rearing guitars recalls a tethered and tamed Glasvegas (as does ‘White Knight Position’), and elsewhere, there’s hints of an angsty gaucheness that explains the way they’ve been lumped into the same landfill as White Lies, Editors et al. But in truth Chapel Club aim for a sonic palette less extreme than many mainstream peers, blurring the monochrome of the 80s into the softer dreampop shades of the early 90s. Not for them a poor man’s Numan or Curtis; the mellifluous and melancholic ‘Five Trees’ and particularly the wave-dandled and wistful ambience of ‘The Shore’ with its warping and warbling MBV guitar squiggles are more a Soup Kitchens Of Distinction.

Lyrically, mocking Lewis Bowman’s poetic ambitions seems rather like reading your first boyfriend’s love letters out on an episode of Loose Women (‘The Shore’ shares a distinction with Maximo Park’s ‘Your Urge’ of being one of very few songs ridiculous enough to use the word ‘tesselate’ in a straight-faced manner). If his image-world with its stars and skies and water and lovely girls and golden apples is a little undergraduate-Yeats-fan, at least he’s trying, and for every reference to Leda and the swan or quietly self-congratulory Dante allusion ("the pines/hung like reconsidered suicides" on ‘After The Flood’) there’s an instance of restrained deftness like ‘O Maybe I’ or ‘All The Eastern Girls’ "Night falls in and the skyline hardens/Colors dissolving until/Faces are lost among the stars". Bowman himself seems a likeable chap, happy to shoulder the provocative gobshite role in interviews, aware that ridicule is nothing to be scared of. Sadly at the moment his band just aren’t up to his mouth.

There are moments: ‘Fine Lights” dancing-dust-mote pretty Blue Nile-isms succeed in being genuinely absorbing (though the workaday racing riff it soon collapses into isn’t one we’d put money on). ‘Blind’ though, threatens to be a KOL style chugging-and-howling release but somehow ends up at a polite meander, Bowman’s voice is glowing, motionless, mannered. ‘After The Flood”s whirring guitar lines recalls Editors’ ‘Munich’, hammering away at the sturm-and-drang button, conjuring more dullage than deluge. Sadly, like the latter days of that lamentable band, Chapel Club have ended up neither fish nor fowl, neither ersatz enough to give a guilty steering-wheel-tapper thrill or genuinely brave enough to inspire. If they’re not quite the ‘Paper Thin’ of the closing track, they’re certainly not strong enough to rest your hopes on just yet.

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