Whenever I hear the word “Chevelle,” whether it be in reference to the car, the band, or a past, crazy acquaintance’s pet Rottweiler named Chevelle, I think of the movie Dazed and Confused. I don’t remember if a Chevy Chevelle was actually featured in the highlight of Matthew McConaughey’s career, but if it wasn’t, it should have been, and it may as well have been as far as my memory and response to the film are concerned. All that to say that the word “Chevelle” is indomitably connected in my mind to great 70’s Blue’s-based tunes, spankings with a huge wooden paddle, and glorious hair. The word “Chevelle” speaks of awesomeness. But none of that jumps to my mind when I listen to the band Chevelle. And, so, at the very onset, Chevelle gets an immediate strike for screwing with my memory.
Now, stop dreaming about getting spanked by Matthew McConaughy, and join me in taking a look at the already behind in the count new album La Gárgola from Chevelle.
Chevelle, like many hard-rock/post-grunge bands, has a grinding blue-collar work ethic that is reminiscent of the Midwest. Which is apropos considering the band was born in Illinois – literally born in Illinois. The original lineup consisted of the three Loeffler brothers Pete (vocals/guitar) , Sam (drums), and Joe (bass) who were all born and raised in Grayslake, a suburb of Chicago. The current lineup includes a brother-in-law Dean Bernardini on bass in place of Joe the youngest brother. It’s hard not to like a hard-rocking, family-band from the meat and potatoes Midwest. Unfortunately, La Gárgola exhibits the meat and potato blandness of the region, too.
It’s not that I dislike the album; I just have a really hard time caring about it. Whenever I listen to La Gárgola, which has been often, I have the urge to listen to Tool. Any Tool will do. And I don’t really consider myself a Tool fan, for what it’s worth.
One of my biggest complaints about the album is that the melodies are too simple to stand up to the crunching guitars and pounding drums. And by “simple,” I mean “boring.” The one song that I believe has a beautiful, somewhat complex melody (but somewhat complex on the La Gárgola scale), “One Ocean,” apparently asks too much from vocalist Pete Loeffler, and unmasks his subpar singing ability. I don’t think anyone has ever accused Pete Loeffler of being a great vocalist, but the other tracks on the album allow the singer to hide behind the loud, balls-to-the-wall, Midwest rock and roll. In fact, his gravelly vocals, when he doesn’t have to carry the song, are fine – Maynard James Keenanesque, but fine. The one possible exception to that is the final track “Twinge.” Pete Loeffler whispers more than he sings on the song, though. And, although a slower and more muted track than the rest of the album, “Twinge” isn’t a complicated song, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But the album needed “Twinge” to musically/melodically kick ass, and it doesn’t. So, although his vocals don’t bother me like on “One Ocean,” the song also doesn’t do anything to alter my opinion of Pete Loeffler as a singer when not hiding behind guitar riffs and drums. The sub-par vocals are strike two, I guess.
To be blunt, La Gárgola really only contains four tracks – “One Ocean,” “Twinge,” “Take Out the Gunman” (my favorite track on the album, but still not notable enough to deserve its own paragraph), and the rest of the songs. The remaining seven tracks are not only uninteresting, but they’re all uninteresting in pretty much the same way. The semi-metal side of post-grunge is on full display from those seven tracks, but Chevelle doesn’t display much creativity in the thunderous guitars and lightning drums. Even the song’s tempos become monotonous. Third strike, or did the batter just give up and go home?
La Gárgola is an album that plays to the band’s fan base, but without asking anything from the fans. The mid-tempo riffs dominate the album as a whole, and Pete Loeffler, per usual, does his best Maynard James Keenan impression. But the album never really sets a tone, and when it tries, like on “One Ocean” or “Twinge,” it falters musically. There is a line somewhere between consistency and monotony, and Chevelle found it. In order to demonstrate that I’m not monotonous, I’m going to allow a guest reviewer to have the final say.While I was prepping for this review, my eight year old daughter, who is a huge Meat Puppets fan, begged me to stop playing La Gárgola. I asked her why, and she said “It’s boring!”
Check John’s personal site out here.
John is a theatre artist and writer based out of Arlington, VA. Nowadays, though, most of his artistic output is spent on keeping his two young children amused, occupied, and off of the top of the bookshelves.