Don't you hate it when someone takes one song from your album, and goes on to review it as if that's what all your songs are like? Well, that's what I'm doing to the three other bands who are playing with Drilling for Blasting at our record release show this Saturday, Chicken Happen, The Brokedowns, and WIG. I have randomly...
iMac:~ dczward$ echo $RANDOM % 13 + 1 | bc 7 iMac:~ dczward$ echo $RANDOM % 7 + 1 | bc 6 iMac:~ dczward$ echo $RANDOM % 13 + 1 | bc 6
... chosen one song of each of their latest releases for my reviews, and will post one each day until all the (three) songs are gone through! If you haven't had the joy of hearing these bands before, I'm honored to be the one introducing you to them. I hope to explain a little of why we wanted them to be on the show in the first place, and to give you a little taste to whet your whistle.
First on the firing line: Chicken Happen, with "Misery' from their recently released Burn in the USA album.
I swear this was a random selection (see the nerd code above), as it just so happens to be one of my favorite songs of theirs. "Misery" is their most unabashedly pop tunes on the record, and it is their least "punk". But there is something exhilarating about hearing a band stretch, powered by their own determination to do something outside their musical upbringing. Maybe I'm assuming but I see Lilly, Zac, and Mark as punks and garage rockers at heart, and this track sees Chicken Happen trying to land some sweet melodies and a catchy pop structure in a genuine way. This isn't the lame, saccharine "imitation" pop song that way too many pop-punk bands dash off over and over again. Nope - those attempts are "ironic" and are merely aping "pop", all while hiding behind distortion and the endless strum-strum-strum of bar chords. I find that stuff tedious (can you tell?) because it is inauthentic - it tries to hide a glaring truth about a good pop song: singing one well and playing one well is HARD. Punk bands that try to do "a pop one" are pretending they can hide from the hard stuff; singling well, hitting the right notes, and being good at your instruments.
But here we have Chicken Happen stepping up to the challenge, because they want to try to pull off a song like this, sincerely. And they do. And I hate to try to keep brining this back to some "punk" scorecard, but in their way, they're manifesting the very "fuck you, we'll do what we want" spirit by not being afraid to reach out and land this one. The performance is great, and it is embodied by singer Lilly Choi's vocals - she's smooth enough with enough vocal chops to hit all the notes well, but she can't (and shouldn't!) outrun her mid-range rock vocal grit that gives it expression and edge. She and the band are having a blast with this song, and that what makes it a joy to hear. To confirm that they're all in on this, they throw in a full bore rock'n'roll saxophone solo that hits all the marks. A band that might be feeling self-conscious about a song like this would have avoided a solo like that, or perhaps have gone overboard and made it silly & exaggerated (see, we're just jokin'!), but Chicken Happen step up and own it, nestling it into the mix right where it should be. I can't close this review by remarking on how much this song reminds of another song called "Misery" by some guys called the Beatles ("Schend her back to me..." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhbcN3ew9z0). It's not a copy in any way, but there's a spirit there where the two Misery-ies could be cousins. I don't think Chicken Happen mind that association at all. And nope, this isn't what all their songs sound like in any way - they're all over the place with shredders, stoners, singers, and rockers.
So that’s one of the reasons we wanted to have them on the show - they’re a great band that doesn’t paint by numbers. They’re stretching themselves and pulling it off, and that what makes a band exciting. Thanks Chicken Happen for being on the show (https://www.drillingforblasting.com/shows/2019/6/8/chop-shop-chicago-il)!
Next on the review firing line, the Brokedowns.