Saturday, March 7, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Chrome 'Half Machine From The Sun: The Lost Tracks From '79- '80' (2013)

Ok, so today I'm reviewing a recently released collection of Chrome tracks recorded in 1979-80, a very fertile time for the band. According to the liner notes, Chrome chose not to include these tracks on any release at the time, feeling that the tracks were too 'commercial' and 'accessible.' I am doubtful that Chrome can in fact sound 'commercial' or 'accessible' in a broad sense, however I am excited to hear if perhaps these tracks represent the closest Chrome has come to sounding as such. In any case, the band has finally felt that the tracks are worthy of release and I am always eager to listen to Chrome. I'm also pretty excited that I managed to score a copy on limited colored vinyl from the band's own label.

For readers unfamiliar, Chrome were pioneers in the Punk Rock and Industrial Rock scenes, combining psychedelia with stripped down and dirty rock into a style they dub 'Acid-Punk.' As I am preparing to drop the needle on this record, I'm also preparing myself for a mind melting experience. I've padded my walls, laid out my jacket with the extra tight arms that wrap around back, and have cleared the immediate listening area of hazards and bystanders. I think I'm ready to do a stream-of-consciousness review of this 2LP release as it spins out. Wish me luck and a sane return.

1. Anything- Whoah! Noisy intro with some seriously distorted guitars and primitive keys kick this baby off. It hits a groove and sticks with it, vocals are notably distorted. This is 'commercial'?! Just goes to show you how hellbent Chrome was on experimentation in 1979. There are also some layers of background weirdness to digest here, they sort of creep in and out of the mix.

2. SALT- some guitar effects madness and obscure, insane vocal croonings lead into some near-ambient guitar sounds until the rhythm drops and we get some really flanged out guitar noise over a driving synth line and cleaner but echoed out vocal delivery. This may not be as caustic as rubbing salt in your wounds, but my brain already feels shriveled like a salted slug. Keep up the confounding work Chrome! Watch out the super-abrupt song ending!

3. Looking For Your Door- We get a really fun groove on this one, overall fairly clean production (for Chrome), this feels a lot like what the Sisters Of Mercy would produce on their early string of 7" releases in arrangement, style, and vocal delivery. Wow, Chrome really just rocks that groove like it's the last one on Earth, I can hear the influence here for Revolting Cocks and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult!

4. Tomorrow Yesterday- Highly distorted vocal delivery and a stuttering drum rhythm over a swaggering and deep synth line greet me on this song. Another excellent groove going on here, Chrome style! I suppose this is MILDLY more accessible in style and arrangement than other Chrome works of the period, but make no mistake, this is clearly Chrome and my half-machine lips are moving to extol the alien soundscapes unfolding before my ears. Lots of interesting vocal madness that switches from left to right speaker, so make sure you hear this on a stereo set up for maximum disorientation. The song definitely develops as it goes on, but sticks pretty close to the groove until fading out and ending the A side.


5. The Inevitable- opens with a moody guitar riff and some shrill keys rising in pitch as some vocal sample carries on unintelligibly in the background. This song is slower and eerie, I'm not sure where it's headed... apparently towards the same riff. Well, there's something to be said for a song called "The Inevitable" moving towards its predictable end.

6. Fukishima (Nagasaki)- More eerie intro noise gets met with an almost jangly bass riff to break into a gritty rock guitar riff that's actually way heavier than I expected to hear on this album! The vocals swirl about in a very confusing manner while the guitar drives on, perhaps analogous to the confusion after the first bomb dropped, as the second inexorably proceeded to its destiny. The groove is briefly broken by some acidic soloing, then drops back into the gritty riff before bringing it all down to a semi-ambient mood of menace and confusion with some backwards played vocal samples.

7. Charlie's Little Problem- Percussion beats switch left to right with some echo over a cheery synth line that sounds like a perversion of some Asiatic theme that I don't have the skill to place... I'm wondering if this is 'Charlie' as in the Vietcong? A very strange little instrumental piece, that was.

8. Ghost- mega-distorted vocals creep out like some drunken beastly zombie over a doomy guitar riff. This track is steeping in gloom and atmosphere! It feels like Skinny Puppy covering something from the first Black Sabbath album. Some foreground and background effects drive change in the song until the main riff fades out, followed by the close of the track.

9. Sound And Light- heavy guitar flange and fades drive another gloomy riff. I have the distinct impression of being heavily fuzzed out on drugs listening to a warped cassette of some early Doom Metal band. Pretty cool vibe Chrome! The song, side, and LP end with some nifty sounds comparable to a child's ray gun malfunctioning as the batteries die.


10. Autobahn Brazil- With a title including "Autobahn" I'm hoping for a twisted Kraftwerk reference, but instead I'm greeted by a very urban sounding groove over some atmospheric guitar drone/noise and vocal samples of people talking. The guitar and drums bits vary to produce some track development as the bass keeps plugging away at is own funky line and the samples play on. I imagine being strung out listening to people in the next room would sound an awful lot like this. The guitars are really spaced out here, lending a moderate Hawkwind flavor to the piece. There's a fair amount of background weirdness to digest too, the synths feeling a bit like a sped up version of the New Age type compositions Tangerine Dream would do in their early-mid '90's albums. Here though, the synths sound like a demented carnival theme beckoning from the abyss of space by this point. It's as if our strung out person from my description of the early part of the song has transcended his reality to completely escape his surroundings. The vocal samples return briefly at the end to bring us 'back down' to reality as some drum fills indicate the end of the song/high is nigh and thus it ends.

11. Sub Machine- we hear some say "Sub Machine, take 1" at the start of the track as some very shimmery guitar noise plays out over a slow, drawn out drum beat and bouncy bass. This speeds up a bit as the drum beat really drops in. This feels like some lost early Goth Rock song that had too many effects on it. Maybe like a more upbeat and more tripped out Chameleons UK with a touch of Echo and the Bunnymen. The song rides this groove to its conclusion with some extra guitar flanges to create atmosphere. The vocals swirl out in effects to close out.

12. Morrison- could this track be about Jim, old Mr. Mojo Risin' himself? The vocal delivery does feel like the Chrome version of a Doors cover while some bass builds some tension in the back and the guitars create some oppressive and swirling noise walls. Will the song pull away from its shoegazing? The drums keep teasing, dropping a rare beat to trick me into thinking this track is about to speed up and do the crazy, but instead the track quiets down and closes out.

13. The Rain- a downtrodden and fairly clear guitar riff introduces this song over some somber keys and slow drum beat, creating an atmosphere of sadness appropriate to the title. The keys develop a bit as the very clear vocals kick in. This is probably the most accessible track so far. I again hear a vibe like tripped out Goth Rock, again some mix of Echo and the Bunnymen and perhaps the Chameleons UK in the chord progressions. Of course, that could just be because I love the Chameleons and the title has 'rain' in it, haha!


14. Something Rhythmic (I Can't Wait)- I can't wait to hear the rhythm on this one... ok we get a distorted sound like a horn from hell that breaks to a more comprehensible guitar riff and drum beat, with clear vocals from both Helios Creed and Damon Edge. The vocal melody is very radio-friendly, this is like hearing some radio rock twisted through with minimalist electronic elements and further mangled through a lens of psychedelia.

15. Housewarming Party- sounds like a machine roaring and gurgling with indigestion start off this track with an obscure carnival like vibe barely holding it all together. It feels like Can's "Spoon" playing over broken loudspeakers at the Ferris wheel.

16. Sugar Moog Pops- another track with Edge or Creed introducing it as take 1, the track itself has spacey, semi-shrill choral keys over a complex drum beat, low and distorted bass line. The lead keys are rather beautiful sounding. I get vibes similar to Doubting Thomas' "Father Don't Cry" EP. Then some loud drum fills thunder in over the bass synth and the pretty lead keys fade into the background. The drums keep on rolling as the rest of the song takes an especially slow while to close out, THEN it builds back up and throws you back into the rhythm of the song with some lead sounds flange and bubble over it before fading out to close the track for real.

17. Intervention- 16 seconds of noise and we're onot the last track of the side, LP, and album!

18. Sunset- tribal-like drum beats play out over a echoing and chill guitar riff that sounds near acoustic as some sitar-like guitar effects slowly take over the song and drone on til the end.

Immediate post-album thoughts: yet another score for Chrome! Lots of good stuff to digest here. I can hear that some of the pieces are more commercial than I'm used to with Chrome, but I enjoyed it all nonetheless and there are plenty of real gems on here. I think this is a worthy purchase for any Chrome fan and a great place for new, prospective fans to start out.

I'm going to go rest my brain, so until next time, stay bizarre!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

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