Chavez Ride The Fader

[Matador; 1996]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: unadulterated rock music
Others: Jawbox, Helmut, Hum, Guided By Voices

Though they seem to be popular, since they sell out every reunion gig they play, Chavez continues to fall into the shadows. It's understandable, the band have only released an EP and two albums. But there's something about Ride The Fader, where every time you put it on, you find an immediacy stating that the monolithic stabs of pure rock authority should be circulating around this album like it does with Nevermind. Though just as excellent as this release, for some reason Matt Sweeny's raspy, nails-on-a-chalkboard vocals are the bane of Chavez’s 1995 release, Gone Glimmering. Sweeny got the ticks out for the follow up, and the result is an album that remembers Bob Pollard's song writing, but is entirely more cohesive than any Guided By Voices release I know of.

It's the kind of record you'd think would come from a few friends listening to Smashing Pumpkins or Stone Temple Pilots and thinking, It's all right, but we could do something much better. Unlike most of those conversations, the boys of Chavez put a stellar alternative to alternative that by the mid-nineties was sorely needed. Alas, nobody played their records (maybe on college radio) even when an album full of anthemic singles came along. Ride The Fader is one of those albums where, if you like loud rock music with lots of emotion and cool lyrics, is hard to top. The mood shifts from triumphant (the literal roller coaster of opener, "Top Pocket Man") to melancholic (the single, "Unreal is Here Now"), but there remains a bombastic edge to the production.

All of these songs should become favorites as you get into them. For me, right now, it'd have to be "Tight Around The Jaws", a dizzyingly math rock oriented guitar and drum workout. Here, the insistent vocals work magic in anchoring this raging behemoth of a track. The audio pyrotechnics on display in both "Flight '96" and especially "You Must Be Stopped" work as less frenzied versions of this song. A song preceded by what has to be the most formidable 1-2-3-4 opening punch a rock album has presented in the nineties, "Tight Around the Jaws" is a favorite, but one made better by the great tunes that got me to the track. And the ones that follow, while none kick as much ass as the first five and "You Must Be Stopped", are sure to grow on you. The short ballad "Ever Overpsyched", with its echo-some vocals and faint piano and drums is truly a lovely example of GBV influence flowering into the miraculously indelible. It's not that Chavez ever directly sound like GBV, but the spirit of Pollard runs through the more somber vocal and instrumental melodies on this album. Something about the band's delivery suggests a wealth of new ideas and good things continually coming.

But, sadly, Chavez only get together when they want to play (or if Matador Records has another anniversary). If by some chance you luck into being able to see them live, I'm sure they're a force to be reckoned with. James Lo never got to give that drum demonstration on the What's Up Matador video, so I for one would be thrilled with seeing him and the rest of the band bashing it out on a stage. One can hope. Till then, there's always the heroic rock majesty of Ride The Fader to keep the faith going.

1. Top Pocket Man
2. The Guard Attacks
3. Unreal Is Here
4. New Room
5. Tight Around The Jaws
6. Lions
7. Our Boys Will Shine Tonight
8. Memorize This Face
9. Cold Joys
10. Flight '96
11. Ever Overpsyched
12. You Must Be Stopped