Saturday, August 09, 2008

Chingalera - Dose (Pacific Recordings, 2008)

Great as it can feel to mercilessly savage a band that deserves it, I like it when a horrid band improves, especially when it's a bunch of local boys. Call it my faith in the inherent potential of all creators, or at least the inherent worth of creativity. LA trio Chingalera couldn't have done much worse on their debut In the Shadow of the Great Palm Tree, an album that aimed way too high (and too long), wasted Steve Albini on a turd-polishing job, then shot a classy DVD to document the whole debacle. While the follow-up Dose is in no danger of infiltrating my top 20 this year, or even making its way to my CD player more than twice, it's a lot better than its predecessor, and that's worth a few high fives.

Chingalera go for the Isis/Mouth of the Architect trick of repeating small collections of simple, economical riffs, morphing them into different shapes by changing tones and dynamics, but this ain't no post-metal record -- there's more sludgy bottom-end trolling than cosmic space-noodling. "The Endless Bummer" and the first half of "Eveler" (dedicated to Evel Knievel) push forth with Helmet-style momentum, a trait lacking on In the Shadow. In "Fake Maria," Chingalera have written their first top-to-bottom great song, replete with a chugtastic opening salvo and an inventive stab at dub-metal to close it out. The band's totally locked-in instrumentally, and even Dave Gibney's vocal style, one of the previous record's weakest links, has hardened into an effective melodic shout.

Chingalera - "Fake Maria"

And yet as much as Chingalera have improved their core sound, they continue to shoot themselves in the collective foot by drawing even their best ideas past the expiration point. Positioned as track number two, the 16-minute ambient instrumental "You Were Happy When You Came In Here" is a near fatal misstep, the kind of bullshit time-waster that a more sensible band would have capped at two minutes and used as a moody intro track. The other four tracks, each averaging about ten minutes, eventually run out of steam or fail to cohere into the epic pieces of work they were intended to be -- "Twenty Three" in particular has some great perverted Melvins riffs, but tames 'em with lame social commentary ("LAPD, stay away from me / It's hotter than Las Vegas and the hills are on fire / Kids having kids having kids / Skate or die / Skate to create"). Vocal cameos from Keith Morris (Circle Jerks), Pete Stahl (Goatsnake) and Eddie Solis (It's Casual) don't add enough excitement to warrant the track's 13-minute length. 

The ambition is there, the sound is there, the musicianship is there. Chingalera's still got a ways to go in the self-editing department if they want to keep me engaged for an entire album. Kudos on the improvements, Chingalera, but I'm sure you can do better than Dose.

Get a Dose of Chingalera at the band's MySpace page

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