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A review of...
Frankenstein Songs for the Grocery Store by CHUCK
Frankenstein Songs for the Grocery Store is apparently the last CHUCK album. Whether that means no more music in any form from Charles Griffin Gibson is open to interpretation. Gibson himself admits "I just don't have it in me anymore" so it seems at the very least that music will be lower down his list of priorities. It's a shame for us listeners because CHUCK seems to be really hitting his stride at the moment and this collection is perhaps the best of his career so far. Unsurprisingly it's much more coherent and flowing than last year's My Band Is a Computer (which was, after all, a career spanning compilation but nonetheless would have been many people's first introduction to CHUCK's world).
This record opens with the electronic Grandaddy-esque "Stoner" and the instantly likeable "New Yorker" which includes a simple but effective verse ("When I graduated college, I moved into the east village. I got a job at a cool office, I got Billy Joel's Greatest Hits") and the funny/biting chorus "I’m a New Yorker, get the hell outta my way now"). The latter is a punchy three and a half minutes of catchy indie-pop, complete with keys and joyful brass. Although the lyrics are occasionally scathing, it seems clear that CHUCK is bowing out on a wave of borderline-optimism rather than just penning a bitter farewell note. Things get rather more subdued (but equally enjoyable) on "Becky", which reminded me of label-mates Frog and their knack of bringing to life understated characters through their songs.
Personally, I could have done without out the "Bulldog [Interlude]", a short pastiche of zany US radio DJs which recalled the skits on De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising (RUINS that album!), but seeing as CHUCK keeps it short and singular I won't hold it against him. Such a blip is easily forgotten anyway on an album that skips between blissed out west coast pop ("Kiss [For Janne]"), wonky, Galaxie 500 inspired rock ("Teenage TV") and more standard lo-fi bedroom numbers like "Cherry Tree". Then there's "Oceans [Electric]" which, what with Gibson's well documented "divisive" singing voice and the early 90s rock vibe sounds an awful lot like a decent Smashing Pumpkins tune.
Despite this range of style's and influences and its happy/sad mood swings (mostly happy) the album holds together remarkably well. Frankenstein Songs for the Grocery Store seems like an apt title anyway. It's a shame that CHUCK is coming to an end, but I've got a feeling that Gibson will have itchy feet before too long and this may not be the last we hear from him.