It's impossible not to root for Chin Up Chin Up. From their amazing song titles ("Fuck You, Elton John" and "I Need a Friend With a Boat" could both win a Song-Name Pulitzer) to their barely tolerable vocals to their quirky band name to the tragic hit-and-run death of bassist Chris Saathoff in 2004, CUCU have always been a wild-card contender for the all-out affections of yours truly, the Gumshoe.
And that's not all; the most compelling thing about the quartet is their un-snuff-able enthusiasm. In a garbage dump full of depressed, morose hipsters (Black Heart Procession et al) and way-too-happy popsters (Casper and The Cookies, meh), Chin Up2 are a — literally — happy medium. As antiquated as it sounds for a 'hoity-toity' critic to say, this is a quartet the average person can relate to — hell, even share beers with. Not only that, but their songs are so singularly upbeat, so catchy, so infectious... if bands were rewarded lucrative record deals based on Heart alone, Chin Up Chin Up would be signed to all four of the major labels at once and supplemented with a regular regimen of hookers and blow.
But that's not how it works, DUH. So allow me to, in the famous words of TMT's nunpuncherino, "kick it from my head": This Harness Can't Ride Anything is forcing me to do something I haven't had to do since I first discovered Chin Up Chin Up's delightfully packaged debut EP... which is reluctantly give them a firm, disciplinary smack on the toukas. Allow me to explain further: This Harness, when evaluated on its own is, if not a great record, an above-average one. Problem is, there's very little difference between it and full-length debut We Should Have Never Acted Like We Were Skyscrapers. The chiming guitars, quick-trotting rhythms, deadpan vocals... they all sound exactly the same as they did in 2004. I FEEL LIKE I'M TAKING CRAZY PILLS GODDAMNIT. Worst of all, a transcendent string section moment in the title track gives a false impression, which is quickly dashed once a few more numbers flow through the ear. They are capable of so much more, and instances like this only tease the listener into thinking a revolution is taking place. It makes for a surprisingly off-putting ride, one that I wouldn't advise a casual indie rock listener to buy a ticket for.
However, if you follow our evil little world more closely, This Harness could easily catch your fancy. Chin Up Chin Up dick around less than any band this side of Spoon, and if you can stand the vocals — apparently many can't — you, too, might choose to root for them. Still, there's really no good reason to seek this out if you already own the aforementioned debut album or the freshly reissued debut EP (for my money, CUCU's best moment), both on Flameshovel.
1. This Harness Can’t Ride Anything2. Water Planes in Snow3. We’ve Got to Keep Running4. Islands Sink5. Mansioned6. I Need a Friend With a Boat7. Blankets Like Beavers8. Landlocked Lifeguards9. Stolen Mountains10. Trophies for Hire