The members of Seattle surf rock quartet Chastity Belt sound like best friends on their second full-length album, Time to Go Home. Best friends who love when their guitarist shreds, because she sounds great doing it, and because they knew her before she played guitar; best friends who will hold down the instrumentals at a show while their vocalist makes up lyrics about dicks. The band hasn’t lost any of its lust for a good time since their first single, ‘Seattle Party’. They still spend their time rollerblading, watching the Seahawks, and bragging on each other’s musical side ventures, but their sound has deepened into something a little less like a buzz band and more like a classic one.
As a band that’s openly talked about “Seattle freeze” (the idea that it is especially difficult to make friends in the city of Seattle), they’ve worked something of the Pacific Northwest into their sound, and it’s as stirring as it ever was. Moments of bell-like melodic clarity remind us of the watery power of the chorus pedal heard on grunge classics (though guitarist Lydia Lund uses no pedals – the expansive sound on the recording is more likely due to the album being recorded in a deconsecrated church).
The album’s second track, ‘Trapped’, comes off as darkly woodsy as The Cure’s classic ‘A Forest’, due in part to driving rhythms and an eerie sonic spaciousness, and singer Julia Shapiro’s voice haunts like a dusky sylph. Her declamatory tone makes it seem as if singing is the natural setting for her voice, with laughter right under the surface. This is obviously a band for whom lyrics are important; Shapiro sends them through crystal clear, and as self-proclaimed sex-positive ladies, it’s great to hear what they’re saying.
Chastity Belt – Cool Slut
The album shifts easily between melancholy and carefree moods, a lot like being young. Melodies, too, are often pleasingly unpredictable; they twist like early Pearl Jam and carry some of the joy of well-crafted rock – the kind that felt like fresh air when it came out of Seattle in the early 90s. Chastity Belt carries stylistic elements that are common among all-male bands, and sound anything but derivative. ‘The Thing’ is a solid dose of glam metal, but with witchy screams that would make Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., proud – they reclaim the shriek as female, and just like that, they’ll never be mistaken for Best Coast.
‘Cool Slut‘ comes off at first a lot like a 60s girl band classic, women giving lamenting love tips to other women, but the lyrics are about how it’s okay to be slutty. While I could call this tongue-in-cheek, let’s call it tongues-out: they’re like, actually saying it’s okay to be slutty, as seriously as any male singer has ever described wanting to get it in. On nights when you don’t feel like being slutty, stay home alone, wander the empty house in the dark, and smoke on the back porch to “IDC.”
At a moment when the two-decade nostalgia wave is hitting us all hard for the 90s, Chastity Belt caps off 25 years that have contained Beck, Soundgarden, Cat Power, Liz Phair, and DIIV, in a way that kind of ties it all together. Tracks like “Drone” allow you to imagine the Vivian Girls covering Enigma.
I really don’t know how much more aggressively I could pitch this to you.
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