It was a late afternoon in December 1995 and a copy of Guitar World found its way into my little grubby hands. The last page had what they reckoned were the best guitar albums of the year. Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains – all there. But one album caught my attention not only due to the cover looking a little “off” but also due to the name : Chavez. The blurb said something like “they won’t go gold nor silver, heck, not even aluminum” and then kept praising it to high heavens. And then I never heard from them ever again. Fast forward ten years and I find the album in a bargain bin in México. Brand new, only 2 dollars.
The album? Gone Glimmering and it floored me. Why did it take me so many years to get this band’s album? I then bought everything they had out and I realised that the time had pass; not a single thing like them would ever grace the “New releases” section of AnyShop, Anywhere, Planet Earth.
Fast forward to 2013 and a dandy band called Ovlov arrives to my inbox. Loved it. Then another band arrived. Two inch astronaut. The album? Bad Brother and from track 1 to track 9, in a crunching 27 minute stretch, you have the best approximation you have to listening to a band like Chavez. for the first time, but now with the knowledge that they are alive and kicking around, storming up a racket in the stereo.
Only not, because although both bands have a rather passion for excellent guitar licks, the similarities end there. Possibly the same “devil may care” approach to harmony weaving is common too, but, yeah, Bad Brother is a well sculpted piece of mineral-rich clay, with enough grit to prevent it from being smooth as porcelain but still pleasing to the tact.
This clay sculpture seems to still be very warm from being put in an oven. There’s enough discord here to keep any math rock enthusiast embrace the “less noodling, more distortion” aspect of dissonant rock. ‘Spank jail’ has enough punk panache to wear vests with studs, without trying to emulate an older brother who traded Dead Boys for a powersuit and Kenny G mixtapes. The sheer anger and pace of punk comes in short, controlled bursts, like in the opening track ‘Swol’, which knows when to play it cool (but not safe) and when to disrobe and streak across the field while flipping the bird to the quarterback.
It’s probably the fifth time that I listen to Bad Brother while I write this and I keep debating about genres and all I can say is “Life savers“: different colours and flavours, but still very enjoyable candy that is timeless. ‘Check the yard’ has some excellent sonic atmospheres with easy going paces, where punk is very distant and Helium and Shiner are more kindred spirits. ‘Blood from a loyal hound’ is almost pop, with that catchy intro but it will get splendidly loud by the end. That sort of subtle move is what really gives them their essence; the sneaky moves in the dark, plotting and sudden brutal attack of Two Inch Astronaut make them both a sly ninja and a cudgel wielding Visigoth.
But is it good?
Oh, fuck yes. It’s loud but never overwhelmingly so. It is dissonant, but never bordering into Lou “I left the amp on and left for a pint” Reed territories of self-indulgence. It’s a very palatable serving of dissonant rock and, just like Ovlov‘s am and Speedy Ortiz‘s Major Arcana, a welcome return to a meaner style of music. Let’s embrace it with arms wide open.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López