|The Chief Smiles |
Help Us Help You
It is good to start out with a central theme or a central sound. It gives you a place to put your feet; it keeps you grounded while everything else can drift wherever it wants. While I have not picked out a central theme for The Chief Smiles, the central sound comes from violinist and co-writer Sarah Trimpe. If a violin makes you smirk, then think Scarlet Rivera from the Dylan's Rolling Thunder days, with deep beats and more distorted guitar.
This album was sent to me with foreign currency taped to the back. I suppose that is some kind of payola, but frankly I think the US currency value may only be several cents. Either way, I am not taking a trip to the bank to find out, I will just tuck in the back of my drawer for a rainy day when all currency is abolished and there is a market on eBay for any existence of paper money.
For a self-release album The Chief Smiles disguise a great deal of amateur posturing, if there is any. "Fit to be Tied" begins the album with a great deal of enthusiastic pop. Certainly, there is not a lot of depth mined in lyrics like "let me take a ride, again", but the energy and smart brevity creates a memorable opening scene to set up the album. The ‘Smiles are not afraid of detours and why should they be? Many of the tracks end up no where near the place they started. Sometimes it is great and surprising, but sometimes, like in the case of "Cure-All" it leaves one scratching his head.
It appears hard to tell where the influence in the ‘Smiles comes from. "Survivors Mood Ring" begins with a metal riff, but you still can't help but love the bizarre scratching strings and the military lyrical delivery. Even the songs halfway turn to melodic yet powerful hook confuses the listener. As a means to settle down, The Chief Smiles offer up the lo-fi recording sound of "Even Albatross Wept" simplifies the album and is almost warming despite the bleak title.
This album, despite confusing me at several points, takes chances and pulls them off at times with perfection. To say that the ‘Smiles have not found their sound yet, would be untrue, it is all there on this album just broken up a bit too much here and there. Help Us Help You, is well worth taking a chance on and worth repeated listen, even if there is not foreign cash taped to the back of the disc.
- Travis Hutzell | 2006-05-18
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