[sic] Magazine

The Chapman Family @ The Bloody Awful Poetry Night

The Last Days Of Decadence
January 29th 2009

My first gig proper of 2009 outside of bands I’m involved with is a viewing of the recently NME endorsed (they also endorsed Menswear! – ed) Chapman Family – one of their 10 new bands to watch this year. It’s a chance to catch up with a band I’ve watched over for a while now; this is my sixth sighting since September ‘07, in a new venue. The venue is rather plush, rather too plush for my liking – I prefer some scuzz. Never trust a venue without beer on tap is my rule of thumb. The venue offers, as well as the downstairs bar/venue, cream teas in a wannabe Agatha Christie setting. This would be a fantastic setting for an album launch but is a bit pricy at the bar for the jobbing punter like myself. So with no chance of inebriation it’s up to the music to supply the thrills.

Lucky, then, that The Chapman Family always deliver some. Back from the first time I saw them their differing appearances have given them a visual edge. Though not contrived to do so they manage to look like members of several Tribes of Pop. Grebo drummer, Skinhead guitarist, Goth singer and Punk bassist. They look more streamlined now but still distinct individuals. Paul’s guitar (unusually) under pins rather than leads, so that Kingsley’s guitar can inject some fury when he’s not singing and pushing away invisible fiends. Paul is not unlikely to stand on his drum stool from time to time in the manner of Mick Shrimpton (I’m not going to explain – you should know), though tonight his position under a supporting beam leading to the “backstage” (completely blocked by his kit) makes this improbable. Speaking of improbable seeing Pop with a low ceiling above him and a large mirror inches from his bass head makes the chances of some sort of injury (to him or us) almost impossible to avoid. Thankfully though his head gets close to the ceiling on occasion no damage is done. Overall the band are clearer sounding than previously, tighter but no less weighty.

In October ’07: I wrote “The songs are clipped, punchy, dust dry, bass heavy anthems. They are knocked out like items rolling from a factory conveyer belt – compact, rock hard ball bearings, ready to catapult into the faces of the masses. The world seems to be slowly catching up with them as far as critical acclaim goes, if the punters get to hear them they’ll need crash barriers soon enough.”

While I may have been a little far ahead in the prediction I stand by it. There is enough angst and romance to ensure an ever larger female following (notably the nearest viewers outside of myself and Paul’s Uncle were women). There are enough pounding and catchy riffs flying around to make men smash into each other and emerge bloody (no sign of this yet but here’s hoping). The blueprint has not much changed over time (although they are clearly technically more proficient) with one exception.

Pop is with every viewing becoming more compelling. Being the “new boy”
(though not very new) it has been interesting to see him go from static to ball of energy over the months, now equaling Kingsley for brooding dynamism and surpassing him for aggression. As has already been written into band law he pushed himself forward with a lot of effects and minimal knowledge of the bass. He doesn’t have preconceived ideas of the sound he should make and therefore uses the bass as a lead instrument, still employing the FX units. When there is space (and when there is not) he flings the bass around like a rifleman doing elaborate drill, on forthcoming EP track “Sound Of The Radio” he plays with a beer bottle scouring the strings then carelessly discards it (it doesn’t smash THIS time). Kingsley has slowed his mile a minute intro’s slightly so we can just about here more than the usual Southerner baiting extracts (outside of seeing Pop’s new haircut/colour the main pleasure I have meeting the “Chapmans” is exchanging “soft Southerner, grim Northerner” banter).

On hearing “I suppose you think I’m wearing the scarf as a fashion statement” from stage for the third gig running I’m inclined to shout “it IS a fashion statement”. Wait for him to comment on THAT one! Kingsley – when not demolishing a guitar – makes arm gestures worthy of a biblical prophet imploring the heavens to rain down retribution on the sinners. Sometimes his eyes are shielded as if the horrors of the word have become too much. As with the rest of the band his clearer delivery of the songs makes them more powerful. Whereas seeing them before was like being on the receiving end of a few smacks in a pub car park now it’s like Tony Jaa sticking his elbow through your skull.



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