Megatron Robotic Apple Pie LP
According to my wise old friend Professor Google, Henry Chinaski was Charles Bukowski’s alter ego and featured in at least four of his books. It’s also a popular band name on both sides of the Atlantic.
I discovered that Bukowski lived in Los Angeles and devoted his days to writing and drinking to excess. He had a wry style and was scathing about the dregs of society that he mingled with. But even with this frame of reference, I find it hard to relate to Chinaski’s music. It’s just not strong enough to inspire feeling in me, let alone make me want to listen all the way through to track ten. Perhaps they should have named themselves after an Enid Blyton character instead?
As the first song ‘Frontline’ begins and the lead singer opens his mouth, an image of Adrian Edmondson on Celebrity Fame Academy appears in my head, thus ruining the song, and possibly the whole album. Even with a pounding bassline and an attempt at harmonies, the mean voices just sound put on and fake. ( However, according to the picture on the CD they’re huge brutes, so let’s hope they don’t fancy a ‘vacation’ to Southampton anytime soon!)
On the plus side, there’s a clever breakdown bit in the middle with a melodic interlude, strange voice effects and dark, menacing lyrics referring to ‘judgement day’ ( I hope they’re not referring to that vacation I mentioned!) The song picks up pace, especially towards the end, and is probably the catchiest song on the album. However, I still can’t shake the feeling that they’re trying too hard.
Second song ‘Troubled’ is fast and angry like the first song ‘Frontline’ and, although the guitars are more edgy and the vocal slightly stronger, it’s just too similar. This is where I start to think they’d be better live because whatever it is they have, it’s not coming across on CD.
Songs three, four and five are the obligatory American rock songs about summer days ( been done) drinking whiskey ( been done) and highways ( also been done). It’s all very uninspiring, but ‘Whisky Song’ does stand out as it hints that the band have a more exciting style up their sleeve. It’s more bluesy and uses echoic effects and different tempos to create a very interesting end product. It’s also the first time I take my hand away from the eject button and pay attention.
‘One More Lie’ is the most indie song on the album, and I think the singer’s voice suits this softer style much better. It doesn’t feel like he’s forcing it like it does on the harsher rock tracks. ‘What You Wanted’ is closest to being the edgy rock that they claim to produce and you’ll be impressed; if you’re still listening. This is where you see what they’re trying to achieve and where the lyrics are closer to intelligently poetic rather than annoyingly cheesy.
Maybe I’m too UK-biased, but I have yet to hear an unsigned American rock band that reaches me like UK ones do. Chinaski refer to themselves as indie/emo-rock heroes and it’s true that during the 35 minutes of the album you do hear those styles of music, but it’s all a bit dated. They’ve got the right ingredients for a good rock band, from supposedly intelligent lyrics ( that I have a feeling might have been stolen straight from books) to unusual musical effects like odd time signatures, but despite this, and just like one of my homemade cakes, it comes out of the oven flat and slightly raw in the middle.
If you are going to listen to I would strongly advise you turn it up loud, make allowances for the fact that they’re American and listen out for the hidden gems.