Well Done Europe Well Done Europe

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The Chap The ChapWell Done Europe

8.1 / 10

The Chap  Well Done Europe LO RECORDINGS

The Chap declare themselves to be extremists with respect to the mediocrity of practically all mass culture these days. While still sounding like past-perfect pop, they seek to revolutionise their routine in the most radical way possible. They are, along with exceptions like Astrud and Matthew Herbert, among the few Situationist groups that we have. For the promotion of their new album, besides advancing it ridiculously highly compressed (Is anybody interested in The Chap’s new album?), they have composed a track with the controversial declarations of Gordon Brown regarding the Rochdale incident. A real exercise in detournement in the purest Guy Debord style. Personally, I can’t help imagining them as a sort of terrorist cell that is trying to blow up the barriers of popular music from the inside or, even better, as spies sending out their messages in secret code. But at the same time, their few, hilarious interviews really crack me up. They’ve got a sense of humour that is very hard to find nowadays, and they are, as you may have guessed, a joke band to be taken very seriously.

They are also a twisted group, but without ever really being thoroughly complicated. I mean, their proposal is digressive and distant, but not at all deserving of being ignored as they have been until now. Although you can never be entirely certain what they require of listeners—listening with open ears?—it is clear that they do their utmost to transmit their message. What’s more, having once entered their jocular universe, their real fans suddenly see how everything fits together in a way that is unheard of in other impossible jigsaw puzzles. The thing is that, established between London and Berlin, they have spent a decade giving shape to a coded catalogue of “mistaken music” that few of us have paid enough attention to. Isolationists like The Books (with whom they share an exquisite taste for the most unusual found sounds: the best thing about this album is the coffeepot whistle in “Torpor”), extravagant like Devo , and subversive like Enon, their story continues to be invisible for a multitude of music-lovers who are supposedly addicted to unclassifiable pop.

Incorrigible outsiders, they have just put out their fourth album, the most refined, a surgical work that sublimates the arty interests set out in seminal treasures to be revisited, such as “The Horse” (2003) and “Ham” (2005). “Well Done Europe” is their first international launch with Lo Recordings, the label occasionally used by other geniuses with a scalpel, like Aphex Twin or Squarepusher; they have returned to them after a brief affaire with Ghostly International. Taking up again the warrior’s pose in “Mega Breakfast” (2008) that they did for the latter, “Well Done Europe” also investigates the laboratory epic that they explored in their beginnings. And they do it using the most distinguished of their qualities as producers: they are talented tightrope walkers between prog-pop, comedy pop, and post-dance. The result is another crossword puzzle of cerebral and extremely theoretical new-wave music whose basic premise (to shock from the elitism of different music) is unfortunately also their main handicap: a cure that the most cowardly will call irritating, and for which they will be accused of being too cunning for their own good. But it’s true, if you enter into the game, you can’t get out. I declared myself to be a fan to the death years ago, and I’m still stuck here.

Once again with the pull of the studio as their main resource, “Well Done Europe” synthetically deconstructs chords and aggressive riffs as if they were codes and equations that others wouldn’t even dare to try. The approach is provocative and almost Dada-like, but its pure hygiene is exactly what they want for us to pervert with our listening. For this work, we expected no less than what follows: songs of alarm about the financial crisis ( “We’ll See To Your Breakdown”), protest songs bragging of their miserable artistic status ( “We Work In Bars”), fun exercises with which they enumerate a list of atheist celebrities ( “Obviously”), and meta-referential allegations against themselves ( “Nevertheless, The Chap,” one of the best songs they’ve written in their entire career). All of this and much more is enough to warrant trying to reaffirm the acute intelligence of these incorrigible outsiders. Not to mention their brilliant ability to turn upside down a (British) scene that we are told is uncomfortable and nervous, but which is shifting around in its seat little more than asleep. Long live The Chap.

Cristian Rodríguez

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