Chao – Hits the Miss

Chao
Hits the Miss

The album opener “Gotta Go” is misleading. The repetitive bass lines bring to mind the early 80s art-funk band ESG. But then Regina Chellew’s whispery vocals kick in and the listener can’t help but be reminded of The Breeders. The song truly is special with its drum and bass breakdowns. But the rest of the album does not follow suit. I was expecting a real rocker to be next. Instead, we get a rather beautifully upbeat pop number with strings to give it a very That Dog feel. I’m not sure if it was a coincidence that the acoustic strumming intro resembled The Rentals’ “Barcelona.” Fortunately, the songs that follow don’t sound so danged familiar. Unfortunately, however, the individual songs that follow are not as memorable. The rest of the album is rather laid-back, lushly orchestrated pop. But once the listener can get over the fact that the first two tracks are not there to dictate what is on the rest of the album, (s)he will realize that the album is quite enjoyable.
“Find a Hole” and “Lay Lady Lay” are both acoustic folk songs at heart, the first decorated with synth and atmospherics, the second with pedal-steel, trumpets and bells. The instrumentation is what makes this album. And Chellew plays all the intruments except the strings: guitars, bass, piano, trumpet, and organ are all her. Perhaps I should have stated earlier that Chao is the debut solo album of Regina Chellew of Captain Audio.
You see, Hits the Miss is still good without the first two tracks. “Low” plays like a retarded version of “Little Drummer Boy.” I’m sure that is not was intended, but it sure as heck sounds good on mine own ears. “Little Drummer Boy” is an undisputed Christmas classic! The Latin-flavored “Whisper” is just as much enjoyable, but rather for its reliance on trumpet and background tap-dancing. The soulful “This Love” particularly defines the Chao sound. It runs at mid-pace, is equal parts pop and folk, and employs minimal yet useful strings and trumpet.
The only song I could have done without is the piano number “Roll Me.” If the rest of the album was made of like-minded tracks, well … It is a little too straightforward, but, thankfully it is overshadowed by the rest of the tracks and can be ignored. However, the final too tracks don’t live up to other songs on Hits the Miss. “Country Song” is self-explanatory. And “Something for Joey” is a two-minute countrified tribute to Joey Ramone, where “I wanna be sedated” is whispered so quietly that it is barely audible.
Hits the Miss does suffer from being a little hit and miss. As a whole, it is a worthy album, but I would have hoped that the last four songs lived up to the first seven. Oh well, maybe next time. Chao!