“Going electro' is one of the great Indie-band cliches, usually deployed when the ideas have dried up or the boredom has set in. Unusually, London’s Chapel Club have arrived at the concept several albums early, throwing out the dark post-punk of their actually-pretty-good 2010 debut, sticking all the guitars in the loft and asking Santa for two Casio PT-1s and a drum machine. It’s affected a seasonal change: where their debut, Palace, was shrouded in the muted colours of autumn, all spiky miserablism under slate-grey Victorian skies (sic), Good Together explodes like a Skittles advert. If albums had a flavour this would be peach, watermelon and pineapple, while its predecessor would taste like pebbles and blue ink.
They pull it off pretty well too, landing somewhere between the psychedelic shimmerings of MGMT and the sparkling pop of the most recent Vampire Weekend record, though it has to be said not actually peaking as highly as either. The album opens on one of its highlights, the slow burbling ‘Sleep Alone’, it sets the tone for the entire record, immediately distancing itself from the past through clattery beats, looped bloops and bleeps and a recurring noise that sounds rather marvelously like the bleating of a contented sheep. The level of detail here is insane and there’s an analogue warmth and a shimmery sadness under Lewis James Bowman’s purring of ”I don’t want to sleep alone”. It’s really very lovely.
Sadly much of the record doesn’t quite match the opener. ‘Sequins’ aims for Hot Chip-ish poppery, which it just about pulls off, ‘Jenny Baby’ is all space and reverb bringing to mind a sort of tripped-out Phoenix, while the title track channels Yeasayer via the Pet Shop Boys. It’s all decent stuff, if a little hard to be really excited by.
As with their debut the five piece are at their best when they’re at their weirdest. ‘Fruit Machine’ is fantastic, rooted in a half-fantasised Eighties era of arty electronica, all synthy warbles and wobbles that draws its threads together into a killer chorus of shimmery pop, accented with little chimes and twinkles and shaded with, if we’re not very much mistaken, a rare appearance by an actual guitar, heavily disguised and elegantly played. It’s a very fine demonstration of the subtlety and charm Chapel Club are capable of here. A real class act. Elsewhere album closer ‘Just Kids’ owes something of a debt to latter-day Radiohead in it’s surges and swells, though again Bowman’s vocal marks it as chart-worthy contemporary alt.pop.
This isn’t a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, it doesn’t have the depth of this year's great pop touchstones, Tegan and Sara’s Hearthrobb or Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City, and like when Christopher Ecclestone regenerated into David Tennant some of the edge, the darkness and the grit has been left behind; which is a shame because ‘edge’ and ‘depth’ are perhaps what could have turned a good pop album into a great one. Like a packet of audio Opal Fruits* this is mouthwateringly fruity if ultimately disposable.
*What we calledStarburst in the olden days- MB
7Marc Burrows's Score