Chalet Chalet – S/T EP

Everything I’ve read about Chalet Chalet tells me they are a punk band, but listening to their debut EP I’m left confused about what to call this, especially since the lines between genres can be so thin and transparent sometimes. They compare themselves to Bad Brains and The Buzzcocks, but I just can’t agree. What I hear is most akin to some kind of hybrid of garage rock and ska that has been sped up a few notches – with their bass player doubling on the trumpet from time to time. Chalet Chalet definitely has the fast, gritty guitar thing down pat, and much of each of the four tracks here will make you want to dance with some nimble bass-line boogie and upbeat drumming.
The problem that arises with the music is the random changes of pace and style that hit you somewhere in the middle of each song that just don’t seem to fit the mold of what Chalet Chalet seems to be trying to accomplish. Just as you are really beginning to get into a song, the band makes a 360-degree turn into some sort of jam band-type breakdown that just doesn’t work. The transitions are jerky and lack the smoothness to pull it off with any effectiveness. These changeovers end up sounding sloppy and really detract from the otherwise decent music on this EP. Some may find this less annoying than I, and that’s why I think this release will have a love it or hate it effect on most people. The other thing that will simply make or break this EP for listeners is the vocals, which sound way too British for these midwestern boys. When the singer isn’t screeching and screaming, he’s got more than his fair share of hipster swagger going on. He somehow manages to follow all the chaotic changes, but the lyrics (those that you can make out) leave a bit to be desired.
I’d be interested to see what Chalet Chalet could do with a full-length album, because their foundation of strong musicians and fun music is a good one. It could prove a great listen, particularly if they choose to focus on the core of their music and forget trying to impress their listeners with all sorts of changeups. While the interest in bands like The Hives, White Stripes, et al is high, Chalet Chalet have a shot at lots of attention if they can just get their foot in the door quick enough. A little clean up of their sound should put them well on the way to getting noticed.