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Well, it has finally happened. I figured it would have happened a long time ago where someone sends me a tape. I know that a number of bands have put out a release to just tape and (luckily for many who no longer have a cassette player) also on digital download. While I’d say there is some value in recording to tape. I can’t really think of any real advantage of releasing an album on tape. As a child of the 80s I’ve certainly experienced the dismay of having one of my favorite tapes being cruelly chewed apart by a cassette player. The worst was when it happened in a car’s player and the gnarled tape would get hopelessly entangled within it. Whenever I got a new tape, I’d make a couple copies of it so it wouldn’t be a total loss if a copy got eaten. I also did this because my parents weren’t really thrilled with some of the music coming out in the 90s so when they’d toss my KMFDM or Marilyn Manson tapes, I’d have a couple of backups. Of course most everyone has had their favorite CD get scratched and vinyl requires some maintenance of both the records and player. This shouldn’t be taken like I’m blasting bands for releasing to tape, especially if there’s a digital download included, it’s just an interesting choice of media in this day and age.
Moving along…Chase Down Blue is primarily the indie-folk rock project of Micah Tigner. According to the band’s Facebook site there is a dedicated band that Tigner plays with but for some reason they aren’t featured on this album. Tigner takes it on himself for the guitar, bass, drums and the vocals. He has Lee Peterson play bass on a track and has Melissa Borer on backing vocals on a number of songs.
The album opens up with an intro and it seems to be purposely rough. It’s both pretty in parts yet dissonant in others. There sounds like there might be tape hiss or maybe some other electronic interference and there is also what sounds like an unmanned snare drum being influenced by the sound of the guitar. It’s safe to say that this music is somewhat experimental and I’d dare to say that there is some improvisation going on.
The intro gives way into the first track, “Love Nothing.” I would like what’s going on, but I’m not totally sure if the bass is in tune on the track. On top of that there are some issues with the timing where I’m not sure if it’s on purpose or not. The guitars do come together for some good intertwined melodies at times, but are a little on the sloppy side. Likewise, there are some mild blunders on the drums. What I can say is solid about the song are the vocals and lyrics. Actually, there are the driving force of the album as a whole. Good lyrics and melodies don’t happen all the time. I’ve heard plenty of lyrics that were supposed to be deep or meaningful and ended up coming off as kind of cheesy and contrived. If there’s one thing about this music, it is not cheesy or contrived. It’s pretty real. The opening lyrics go, “It’s falling all around now and I never even asked why/but I’m still getting punished as if I was asking all the time/Just don’t ask anything you don’t want to know.”
It’s almost miraculous how the album turns into something quite good with the next three tracks. The instrument side of things tightens up and the vocal work between Tigner and Borer is powerful and well laid out. It’s worth mentioning the lyrics again because the delivery and depth put into the vocals on the three tracks where Borer contributes is fantastic.
The track “Telephone Pole” flows smoothly with the vocal melody lines that come off like some of the more sentimental songs from bands like Tilly and the Wall or Smashing Pumpkins with a definite feel of more traditional folk. “We’re going down to what’s underneath/So bring on the black: what you left to me/my inheritance it seems/shrouded in shawls made of teeth woven from the past and the ever-let-down-dreams.”
The tracks “That Kind of Pain” and “Two Timing Teeth” are also well done and hard hitting. In the end, I wish there was perhaps a little more patience and honesty on the recording aspect of things with this album. I know how it goes with wanting to put something out. The songs are well written overall, but I believe the experience of this album could have been better with a little more thought.
Overall, I’d consider this a good effort. Aside from “Love Nothing,” there’s good material here. Even on that track, the lyrics shine and pull it together. The next Chase Down Blue show will be at Red Herring on December 3 with Clementine, The Favourite Child and Lord Montague. It seems likely that the live show will be worth watching and that future albums will show bigger and better things.