Review : Chains of Love - Strange Grey Days
PitchforkAs prevalent as the 1960s girl-group sound has been in indie rock over the past five years, no one would ever mistake these modern variations for the real deal. Rather, the most visible of the contemporary torch-bearers have subjected that classic pop sensibility to corrupting influences: Dum Dum Girls toughen it up with a 1970s CBGB spirit, Vivian Girls smother it in the the haze of C86-era indie, while Cults play up the connection between booming "Be My Baby" kick drums and hip-hop breaks. Vancouver's Chains of Love, however, present no such immediately differentiating characteristic or subversive streak. Their press materials drop names like the Cramps and Jesus and Mary Chain, but punk rock and transgressive noise terrorism aren't really part of their program. What they offer instead is a faithful, playful recreation of familiar period details: reverb-heavy guitar jangle, snake-like tambourine rattles, ? and the Mysterians-style organ doodles, Motown basslines, and, yes, more blatant appropriations of the greatest percussive intro in pop history.
Chains of Love do filter these sounds through proudly grimy production-- courtesy of guitarist Felix Fung, the Jim Diamond/Liam Watson of the Vancouver garage-rock scene-- though that simply serves to enhance, rather than undercut, the band's retro qualities. Instead of approximating the cathedral-sized grandeur of a Phil Spector single, Strange Grey Days imagines what it sound like to hear one blasting out of a cheap transistor radio on a hot August night in 1965. But while the scruffy surface may lend Strange Grey Days the patina of a dust-covered, decades-old, crate-digger find, it doesn't provide the best showcase for vivacious vocalist Nathalia Pizarro, the undeniable focal point of their live shows and, as such, the person in the best position to distinguish Chains of Love from the 60s-throwback pack....full text
BeatsperminuteIn many ways, Chains of Love’s seven-song debut, Strange Grey Days is just another retro-revival record in a long and bustling line. Listening to the girls of Chains coo in close approximations to The Shangri-Las, or at least The Continental Co-Ets, more modern bands like The Black Belles, Vivian Girls, and Those Darlins come to mind. All combine a garage rock sensibility with some serious girl-group lust. Chains of Love go the extra mile for “Lies Lies Lies,” riffing off an incredibly similar song in theme and feel: The Knickerbockers’ “Lies,” once covered by Nancy Sinatra and, more recently, The Black Belles themselves. Far be it for me to wrongly imply that people stopped lying after a certain decade, but phew does that one note sound dusty.
Fuzzed out and flavored with the mothballs of yesteryear, Strange Grey Days is still an interesting and haunting case of nostalgia. Chains of Love walk their memory of the hey-day of ’60s girl pop through the distorted mirrors of surf rock and ’70s punk, diluting the distortion down into a hardly more than atmospheric haze. The boundaries blur slightly, like with a vaguely salt-soaked, Eagles-esque guitar solo towards the end of “He’s Leaving With Me” or the organ noodling in “Lately” that hums along prominently like a less aggressive “96 Tears,” but the tunes always return to an almost impenetrable pop, vaguely witchy in its ability to bounce prying fingers from its doors.
For sheer cauldron ooze, the best number on Strange Grey Days is the album’s namesake and closing track. You can almost see the long nails wiggling mystically in front of your irises as the eerie, melancholic, yet beautiful number unfolds. While the rest of the album plays with fairly straight pop trends from the ’60s, “Strange Grey Days” dips its toe into a moody, psychedelic pool, paradoxically sounding original and modern as well....full text
NowtorontoChains of Love began as a recording project concocted by Vancouver-based engineer/studio owner Felix Fung and guitarist Clint Lofkrantz as a throwback girl group. That it was preconceived may distress rock purists, but that approach allowed them to put together a crack six-piece team of local talents to suit the style. And the group’s debut EP nails the 60s vibe in both production and execution.
Lead singer Nathalia Pizarro has the kind of big, character-filled voice that soul singers envy, but that’s only one successful element. Harmonies from co-vocalist Rebecca Marie Law Gray call to mind any number of classic girl groups, while warm organs, loud Motown bass lines and rough fuzz guitars mix nostalgia with a bit of modern, lo-fi psychedelia. You can hardly call it original, but they’ve definitely done their homework...full text
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