Chemtrails – Calf of the Sacred Cow (Album Review)

It’s good to be positive about things, there’s too much negativity in the world and frankly, not enough to balance it out. It’s always a surprise then when you find a small ray of sunshine from a London band called Chemtrails making it probably the first good thing to be linked to the internet’s favourite conspiracy hoax.

The sound is a nice, lo-fi, fuzzy, psych-pop blend, a little bit Flaming Lips, a little bit Breeders and certainly just a hint of Wavves but even with a diverse list of influences on their bio mentioning everything from Pixies through Blondie, you get the feeling they are still trying to make their own thing. The most striking effect of the sound of this, the young five-piece’s debut album, is their swirling effect of the three vocalists with Mia Lust and Laura Orlova taking front duties and Another Laura (the actual credit given to her on their page) creating some lush backing harmonies. Adding layers of distortion over the vocals often makes the three different interconnecting pieces almost cross over each other like a wave of sound, creating an intoxicating dream-like effect pulling you in even if it does sacrifice clarity making the actual lyrics hard to distinguish but the atmosphere generated feels more interesting than actual words could be.

Musically, the work is solid but doesn’t do much to really distinguish it from a number of other bands or often from other tracks from the album itself, it’s the kind of music that works better when thrown into a shuffled playlist, getting a quick blast of fuzzed-up fun but as a whole, it can become a little repetitive. At its best, though, it’s great, with standout tracks like ‘Ghosts of My Dead Cats’ and ‘A Beautiful Cog in the Monolithic Death Machine’ coming off as perfect enclosed youthful rushes of energy, destined to probably end up on a fair few indie kids summer mixes.

Unsurprisingly for a band named Chemtrails, the best of their sound has a certain, barely restrained and undeniably righteous anger to it with their lyrics containing some distinct, graphic imagery, most of it seeming to have remained in the apocalyptic mindset of earlier E.P.s if not there in actual topic, peppered with a delightfully dark comic edge. It also helps that by containing the songs to a restricted length (with the longer songs being of only slightly more than four minutes), it really focuses the storytelling allowing on a track-by-track basis a great coherence of structure, even if the album as a whole isn’t quite the sum of its parts.

Ultimately, this isn’t an album that’s going to change the world, or at least not mine but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy listening to it. As a good, solid piece of fuzzy pop, I’m sure it’s going to find its target audience, maybe one who’ll take what they’ve heard here and explore wide and far the references they clearly wear on their sleeves. As a debut, it’s confident if unassuming but I’m sure, on the basis of their confidence here, whatever their second album becomes could become something far bigger. That said, my sister overheard a few tracks from this and said it was the kind of thing she’d have listened to in Sixth Form and she doesn’t still listen to, so make of that what you will.

Calf of the Sacred Cow is out on February 9th via PNKSLM Recordings.