Monday, July 26, 2010

chisel - if you believe in christmas trees

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists have a (relatively) new album called The Brutalist Bricks out on Matador. Leo can be (and has been) accused of repeating himself. He's stuck pretty closely to his power-pop/punk formula over the years. And after twenty some years of music making he has yet to pen a rock opera or record an album with the Brodsky Quartet. What he can't be accused of is failing to make catchy, passionate music, and the Brutalist Bricks is no exception.

Anyway, the new album got me in the mood to revisit the music of Leo's old mod/punk revival band, Chisel.

I have a very vivid memory of seeing Chisel live with Slant 6 and (I think) Blonde Redhead at a club in New York City's meatpacking district called The Cooler. This was probably early spring of 1995, but don't hold me to that because I'm going strictly from memory here. I'm pretty sure The Cooler shut down a long time ago, but during the 90s it was one of the better indie music venues in the city.

The Cooler, as its name implies, was located in what used to be a giant walk-in freezer. This made for a very interesting atmosphere and really crummy acoustics. With walls made of highly reflective aluminum it is a wonder the club sounded as good as it did. Anytime I saw a show at The Cooler I couldn't help but think about the animal carcasses that not so long ago were the venue's primary occupants. Occasionally an image of Frankie Carbone at the end of Goodfellas would pop into my head. The club was always getting busted by the cops for some violation or another, but I don't remember any problems that night.

Leo and his band mates Chris Norborg and John Dugan put on what I remember as a very tight and energetic show that night, although admittedly my memory of the evening has gotten pretty hazy over time. Later that year Leo would prove he had excellent taste in music beyond the relatively limited mod/punk universe by covering Cardinal's "If You Believe In Christmas Trees" and releasing it as the b-side to their "the o.t.s." single on Darla Records.

1 comment:

Scott Timberg said...

Saw Leo a few mos ago at The Troubadour and it was even better than last time and included (I think) a Waterboys cover... Love Chisel almost as much.