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The Chairman Dances | Long Lost/A History of Antiquity

Album review by John Powell

The Chairman Dances | Long Lost/A History of Antiquity

Reviewing Long Lost/A History of Antiquity by The Chairman Dances has taken longer than expected. This is partially due to the fullness of the album- a lot of lyrics, a lot of songs. It’s sort of an LP and EP mix, with Long Lost at 10 tracks and A History of Antiquity at five. The album feels more familiar at louder volumes and with the treble kicked up. Band leader Eric Krewson has an indie-fied whiney drone that does justice to 15 narrative tracks- which is another reason it took so long: this album feels like a collection of short stories.

“Safe From Sadness” builds slowly over acoustic guitar. “You pulled down the blinds/switched off the light,” Eric sings, “and we made for the back stairs.” He literally (pun intended) takes you through these moments of time. The song succeeds with a snare roll, electric guitar fuzz, and bouncing bass leaping forward, turning the croon into a rock song, two and a half minutes into it.

“I packed up most of my things/and headed West,” Eric sings on “Winter Trip. “I’d see a friend I knew/in just an hour’s time.” The guitars are always fairly simply; acoustic finger-picking and electric lead trickling in to fill out the corners. Unlike “Safe From Sadness”, “Winter Trip” never travels beyond a slight elevation of volume and energy, feeling wintry in composition as well as content.

The speedier songs survive better. “Our Children Take Our Place” is a frolicking Indie rock gem, based around lead guitar play and lyrics like, “Our husbands by our side/we’ll find the time we lost,” and “The worst things/can be best for us.” Still, it’s literary. While instrumentally the bass, drums, and guitars have this constant movement to them, the lyrics don’t likewise zip, even if they are good.

A key track on Long Lost is “A Social Affair”, busting in on palm-muted riffing and ecstatic, moving bass (the best part!). The song moves! It rocks. The melody is catchy, like a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah outtake. Eric even sounds like Alec Ounsworth, with whirling groans and self-obtained wisdom. If only more songs on the album had this tightness to them.

Instead, The Chairman Dances falters with narrative detailing of things, feeling sprawling and without focus. For instance, on “Hearts Keep Beating”, the instrumentation isn’t complex, in a folky, nice way, with percussion that gives the song swing. Whenever Eric steps back and allows for Mike Giuliana, Ben Rosen, Dan Wisniewski, and his own guitar to kick around and have some Indie rock fun, that’s when The Chairman Dances flourishes.

Recorded live in two days, the album has an organic feel. The players are great. The vocals are low in the mix, which might make the long verses harder to pick up at first, (like I said, high volumes help you hear each bit). Perhaps the most interesting thing about the record is that the University of Pennsylvania Libraries released it. Some of the band members have ties to the UPenn libraries, and the project was seen as an interesting idea for the library to take on. This didn’t stem from anything more than a couple of friends seeing this as a neat idea and pulling it off, and the album content isn’t focused on anything in the UPenn mission statement, but in many ways Long Lost/A History of Antiquity is literary, and is sort of like the Moby Dick, or I should say the On the Road of Indie rock albums- a lot to take on, but worth pursuing, if you indulge in a project’s fruition and a journey through a man’s mind and his demons.

Bottom line: In need of a few more hooks, these guys are still worth Indie fans taking notice.


 

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