(New Album Review) The Chewers- Chuckle Change And Also

Here’s a submission I received around a week ago, a rather charming bit of homegrown surrealism: Chuckle Change And Also, the second album to date by West Virginia’s The Chewers.

Self-described “freaks from the woods”, The Chewers (Travis Caffrey and Michael Sadler) do a good job of screwing around on the creepy avant-rock wavelength. Disjointed guitar riffs, demented fiddles, and primitive drums stutter in time with monotone monologues of murder and weirdness– it’s hypnotic listening. The Chewers are indeed very charming– perhaps best described as jaunty down-home punk-intellectuals. It’s nice to see a new band taking up the mantle of folks like The Residents, The Holy Modal Rounders, and Sun City Girls, and doing a damn good job at it.

What separates this pair from their artistic forebears is perhaps a tendency to lean towards a Southern Gothic style of country-folk, as one can see on tracks like “Smiling Samuel” and “Tornado of Stasis”. Personally, I think that the gothic country influence in their music is rather brilliant, because while all of these experimental-freak outfits have enjoyed telling stories, I’ve just never heard this Southern influence transplanted into this kind of band (except as a temporary pretense, as I’m sure that Sun City Girls have at some point or another imitated literally every genre of music ever to exist). It’s just another aspect of The Chewers that’s very refreshing, and it gives a special fascination to their music– these strange tales held me in suspense. I smiled a lot while listening to this album– it alternates between droll tales of weird murder and mad-scientist freakouts very gracefully. And The Chewers can be very funny when they go the route of full-on strangeness, particularly on “I’m Afraid” and “Some Folks”. This is indeed music “from the woods”, or as a musician I know once said, “music from the other side of the fence”– primitive and untamed. Their aesthetic is rough and at the same time grows on you easily, calculatedly sounding patched-together and hastily-thrown-in-gear as a way to hook the more discerning listeners. The Chewers make music that purposefully comes from a place of estrangement and fragmentation…I love it! We need more stuff like this out there, particularly because it’s harder to do a good job making it than I’m making it seem.

I can see these two going pretty far with future releases, though this release is itself pretty impressive. Here is their bandcamp, check them out when you can!

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