Album Review : Chains of Love – Strange Grey Days

Chains of Love – Strange Grey Days (Manimal Vinyl) – REISSUE

Retro is a bit of a dirty word in music appreciation circles. It’s all too easy to label music which invokes a specific era or sound as regressive or lazy, yet often the music ‘scenes’ of the past were never given the opportunity to fully explore the possibilities of their sound before being eclipsed and left unfinished by the next emerging scene thrust into the public eye to sate the hunger of record company types keen to exploit new sounds for profit.

Since the turn of the noughties, the alternative scene has thoroughly mined the rich seam that is post-punk and new wave sounds to the point where there are at least twice as many acts purveying three-chord, three-minute power pop than existed in the original scene. In an era of auto-tune and rave pop by numbers dominating the pop music charts, this yearning for a more back-to-basics attitude to organic music has also seen a resurgence in 60s melodies tinged with the trappings of psychedelia.

Canada’s Chains of Love manage to combine both of these elements on this reissue from 2012. An affectionate homage to the girl-band pop of Spektor’s wall of sound days, with just a dash of lo-fi indie menace,  ‘Strange Grey Days’ is a brief (32 minutes) yet pitch perfect collection of kitchen sink dramas of love, loss and yearning.

Opener ‘He’s leaving with me’ begins unabashedly with grandiose Martha and the Vandellas’ style drums and erupts with a defiant and growling Nathalia Pizarro, growling powerful home truths to her lovers’ ex over scratchy guitar and kaleidoscopic chords.

On ‘Lies Lies Lies’ the Motown propensity for doing sombre up-tempo soul is executed flawlessly; a subtle moog line chugs patiently underneath choppy surf guitars, the metronomic tambourine expertly steering  a path through another bombastically bitter lesson in heartache.

The moog does eventually manage to get its freak on in the suggestive ‘Lately’ – with a casual nod to ‘? and The Mysterons’ and is accompanied by a bluesy piano in a brief benching of the guitars; it’s a welcome moment of respite from the melancholy ,as Pizarro croons her seductive demands.

Much has been said about the impending death of pop music and the apparent dearth of new ideas, of no genuinely new sounds emerging in the modern age. Perhaps there is some truth in that, but whilst we still have the opportunity to re-interpret and breathe new life into the old and the appetite exists for a better time than present, Chains of Love and all those that seek to reacquaint us with why we fell in love with music will endure I’m sure.

Ian Macdonald is a former music journalist and curates a new music playlist on Spotify called ‘New Music Alternative 2015’ you can follow it here …


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