Sunday, July 24, 2011

Track Review - "On Warmer Music" - Chisel

A fitting call-to-arms for this blog, “On Warmer Music” is the lead track off Chisel’s third and final album, Set You Free. Chisel was Ted Leo’s first band with bassist Chris Norberg and drummer John Dugan. They formed at Notre Dame and were indie stalwarts throughout the 90s, turning out three albums and assorted singles of wickedly catchy and fuzzy mod-punk before breaking up in 1997.

The song starts with a heavily distorted electric guitar tonic before settling into a chugging punk riff. The guitar sound is unique on both the album and in Chisel’s career and it sounds so altered that throughout the first 1:30 it straddles the line between punk distorted and electronically synthesized sound.

The is a bi-polar song with the first half consisting of the song’s sole verse. Ted Leo launches immediately into the story of a girl with whom he clearly has a messy relationship. This is no tra la la love song though; it’s one of those conflicted, true-to-life, adult affairs. He and his girl veer from fighting to envy to neediness and back in less than two minutes.

There’s plenty to love in Leo’s distinctive, English-major song writing style as he tosses in classic images (“I’m just a naughty square”) and pretentious asides (“she’s just an ingénieuse) without ever losing sight of the song or the melody. Despite this, things are left unresolved but hopeful as he concludes “hope she don’t kick me out / ‘cause I’m so glad that she’s around.”

Cut to the chorus. The chunky riff is absolutely blow apart by a full band entry and Leo goes from reflective to anthemic. “Get ready for the invasion / self-satisfied, smug rock nation / cheers to the young idea / so glad that you are here.” This is the entire rest of the song as the chorus repeats to the end, somehow managing to gain power and urgency with every repetition.

The meaning of all this can be read several ways. Is it a reconciliation of ideas with the girl from the chorus? Perhaps instead it signifies an abrupt parting of ways? Or maybe it’s just an unrelated shot across the bow to the bloated rock world of 1997. Read it how you want, all I know is that it got me writing.

Get you some Chisel! Amazon eMusic

And check out South Bend Power Nineties for more good stuff on Chisel, including a side project, Water.

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