They've rather, and slightly sadly so, dug their own (critical) hole some months prior to the release of this, The Chalets' delayed debut. The likelihood of a single review making it five lines without making some remark or other about kooky, quasi-kinky on-stage attire and co-ordinated hand-on-hip dance moves is, frankly, slim. See? Point proved. The overriding aesthetic appeal of the band – the twin girl and three boy line up, each dressed to impress and to appeal to primal instincts (women may want to mother the men, men may want to take the girls back to mother) – makes analysing this all the more difficult: without the visual accompaniment, will Check In choke on its own cutesy, saccharine pop?
Well, no, actually: strip away all preconceptions and Check In reveals its charms. Yes, certain songs bring straight to mind those sultry poses and jerkily pop-rockin' indie-boys, but qualities are abundant from the outset, said opening line being the former paragraph-referencing, "You're making us wanna unbuckle our trousers". The only instantaneous gripe is that Check In really deserved an earlier release; so many of these songs – 'No Style', _'Gogo Don't Go', _'Beach Blanket' – are preoccupied with summer abandonment, with seaside liaisons and spontaneous trips away. As October skies turn grey, said efforts make for nostalgic listening.
The saucy is always balanced by the sweet, lyrics full of lust countered by ones of comedy. 'Theme From Chalets'and 'Love Punch' contain references to matters of the heart, but take thoroughly different forms of execution: the former tells of girls getting away, giggling, from geeky boys after a drunken encounter, while the latter could conceivably be construed as commentary on domestic violence. 'Love Punch' coupled with the preceding 'Checkout' comprises a slightly sour end – the closing 'Beach Blanket' aside – to an album brimming with exuberant pop quirkiness and sassy dancefloor shifters.
The Chalets' effortless charm is evident in 'Two Chord Song': here they poke fun at their own musical limitations by playing just that, a two chord song, with lyrics of a rise to stardom gone awry (it's worth noting that this album has already sold well in Ireland, where the quintet are on the way to becoming bona fide stars). Backtracking a second, those limitations are likely self-imposed, as while these songs are compositionally simple, one feels that they're specifically designed that way. They allow for maximum pleasure on the part of the protagonists, who want to have as much fun as their often-enraptured audience. Such simplicity can't fail to breed smiles. 'Two Chord Song' also highlights, purposefully, the band's initial appeal: the boys refer to the girls as "fine looking ladies", while their female counterparts can only muster enthusiasm enough to summarise their band mates as "plain looking". By bringing to the fore their own stumbling block in the eyes of the critic, The Chalets effectively render talk of style over substance utterly redundant.
Not every song's a winner (and subsequently a potential single) – 'Fight Your Kids' and earlier single 'Feel The Machine' are pretty enough ditties but substantially unremarkable, although the latter's lyrics titillate somewhat. Are they talking about sex toys? The words are so annoyingly ambiguous it's tough to tell and, to be honest, the tune's not strong enough to make you care particularly. Just skip to the next song.
A few mid-album blips aside, Check In starts and finishes strongly, packing super-size proportioned pop hooks alongside its dirtied punk riffs and xylophone tinkles. It'll undoubtedly annoy as much as it does entrance, such is the violently bipolar nature of today's indie community, but to these ears Check In is as strong a pop record as 2005 will muster. The skies might be clouded and moods dulled by the onset of dark and damp mornings, but this is almost certain to brighten one's horizons for a wee while.
8Mike Diver's Score