Sunday, 19 June 2011

Chad VanGaalen - Diaper Island

I've been hanging on to Chad VanGaalen's new release Diaper Island all week and only just got around to writing this review. If you haven't heard it yet, I highly recommend you track down a copy or download a track or two from iTunes.

Diaper Island is definitely one for the grown-ups, with a lo-fi sound reminiscent of the late 60s and early 70s that, for once, seems thoroughly intended. This is no copycat production hanging off the coattails of the glory days; many of the tracks are innovative while containing the kinds of lingering musical strains you might hear on a Hawkwind LP.

Diaper Island (Bonus Track Version) - Chad VanGaalen

High Points

The lilting Sara is a wonderfully subdued soliloquy whose repetitive motif of "Sara, wake me up when you're home" does not become a bore over the course of little more than three minutes.

(The standard 12-track version of Diaper Island comes in at almost 40 minutes in total, or 3 minutes 20 seconds per song - these are very carefully judged compositions, like distilled Hawkwind, without any self-indulgence or unnecessarily sustained intros/outros.)

Special mention has to also go to the controversially named Shave My Pussy. Its lyrics are as no-holds-barred as its title, discussing the present-day fascination with outward appearance in terms of a practice both widespread and largely undiscussed.

Away from the music itself, VanGaalen's self-made animated video to Peace on the Rise is well worth a look - so here it is:

The Verdict

While some of the lyrics - particularly in Shave My Pussy - leave little to the imagination, the same is not true of Diaper Island itself. The music here is thought-provoking and imaginative in itself, with just enough of that atmospheric 70s vibe to feel reassuringly familiar without being too derivative.

Chad VanGaalen has brilliantly bridged the eras, producing a collection that is wholly relevant to present-day music - if not in the popular sense, then in the 'any given Saturday night' sense of what's actually being played live in the bars and clubs of the nation.

On top of that, if your record collection still consists largely of vinyl (and there's nothing wrong with that!), this is probably one of the few newly produced CDs that would go well alongside it. I've focused too much on the sentimentality of Diaper Island, I realise that, but it's a rare thing to find a new album from a still-developing artist that could so easily be a slice of music from one of the great decades of the 20th century. If you're not sure what I mean by that, take a listen for yourself.

Final Score: 73%

Diaper Island (Bonus Track Version) - Chad VanGaalen

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