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Searching in vain for the holy grail
on 22 March 2010
Hmm. The chapterhouse story for me is one of immense potential, but tragically little recorded product that shows what they were really capable of. Leading up to and around their early records, their gigs were incendiary, a three-guitar attack that was thrilling and promised so much more than the other bands in the so-called Scene That Celebrates Itself like Ride, Lush, Boo Radleys and others. Which brings me to the records.
Falling Down was a fine single, the wah-wah fitting into the baggy sound that was still the ruling indie sound of the time, though live it was hardly a standout. Something More, the follow-up, was fantastic, Feel The Same on the flip likewise. And so to the album.
Whirlpool felt like a colossal disappointment, overproduced and, I don't know, overthought? The production (partly by the great lord of shimmery guitars, Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie) decidedly chose treble and brightness over depth and dirt and at once removed the earthiness and life from songs that live were vibrant and full of visceral energy. Where was the 'grrrr'? Treasure just about survived, but the rest had the life surgically removed, bass was barely audible in the mix and Something More was turned into a Cocteau Twins pastiche. Falling Down with its swagger, in this company now sounded like the pick of the bunch. This from a band that apparently Alan McGee turned down at Creation for sounding 'too much like the Stooges'. That now sounded inconceivable.
So, on finding that there were a set of 'original recordings' going about my mind got to thinking excitedly about the possibility of hearing the songs as they should have sounded, based on how they sounded live, an aural assault. Unfortunately I have to report that this is not that record. Basically this sounds like demos of the versions that were released on Whirlpool back in the day. Okay, yes they sound a little rougher, but rougher in the sense of the recording, in the way that a live tape does, not in any way which reflects the way they were actually playing. Their vision here was obviously essentially that which was realised on the album. So, I can't see myself playing this again, unfortunately. But I haven't given up hope that the sound that I loved, perhaps a set of demos recorded and then shelved, around the time of Something More, might one day come to light.