Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy review by dredg

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  • Released: May 3, 2011
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 6
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 6.3 Neat
  • Users' score: 4.4 (13 votes)
dredg: Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy
1

Sound — 7
The turbulent information age has forced us all to embrace more change in less time and it shows no signs of stopping. In politics, mass media can swing public opinion in days. In technology, innovation is so rife that the cutting edge rarely stays sharp for longer than a few months. In music, artists struggle constantly with the often opposing forces of audience expectation and their own desire to push boundaries. So many lose their cutting edge in the process, but California's dredg have been lucky to have a fanbase willing to be taken along a journey of evolution and progression within the experimental rock world. But "Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy" is a real fork in the road; see, it's barely rock at all. With famed hip-hop producer Dan The Automator at the helm, the band have created something very different, a real test for an audience that was starting to become accustomed to philosophical, high-concept rock records. First of all, the band dynamic is cast away entirely - the members wrote in isolation and exchanged ideas through the internet. In many ways the final product reflects this; only vocalist Gavin Hayes gets regular airtime on his "usual" instrument while the rest slot into a slick pop production through programmed drums and synthesisers aplenty. But is "slick" the word? It has a real vulgarity to it at times. Songs like "Another Tribe" or "Sun Goes Down" are rather obtuse in their adoption of pop idioms, as if to stick out a tongue to those who expect rock and rock only. Understandable, perhaps, given the fixation many have with the sound of their cerebral and introspective 2002 effort, "El Cielo", but at times it seems like the band have cut off their nose to spite their face. Fans will recognise tunes like "The Ornament" and "Where I'll End Up" from previous recordings and live bootlegs, but they seem to have been sterilised during the production process, synth shakers and dry bass tracks turning them as neutral and unsettling as the cover art. However, there are fingerprints of classic dredg writing to be found. Mark Engles' disciplined guitar playing is used as textural detailing alongside various loops, samples and extraneous noises and as the album sinks in, past works do begin to come to mind. "Somebody Is Laughing" and single "The Thought Of Losing You" in particular evoke melodic elements of "Leitmotif" and "Catch Without Arms" respectively.

Lyrics — 6
The soul of "Chuckles..." music shines through the cracks of the callous production, and its lyrics are much the same. Peculiar uses of repetition, rhyme and clich mar many tracks but underneath lay glimpses of quality. In a decision unlikely to make the stylistic shifts any easier to swallow, this is the first dredg record that is not weaved together by a grand vision and concept. Hayes instead writes in a very personal way, telling stories of his own life and those immediately around him. "Upon Returning", for example, talks of the anxieties of having a sibling in the Army, and is one of the most successful ventures alongside the troubadour-ish "Kalathat".

Overall Impression — 6
It seems "Chuckles..." is a necessary departure for this band, a low-key experiment that has been turned into a major event thanks to the touring and press responsibilities working bands now have to commit to. In its versatility it can be many things to many men, bouncy and life affirming or debilitating and creepy. The overhaul in instrumentation will be an instant red flag to many but at the heart of the songwriting it is the same band doing what they've always done: change. The difficulty is that they are moving in too many directions at once and the album ends before you can get a grasp on any singular creative thrust, beyond change itself. Therapeutic, rejuvenating and unavoidable for the band, but not a work that stands alongside its predecessors.

24 comments sorted by best / new / date

    gquady09
    I'm not really into this kind of music at all, but I can see that you put actual effort into this review, so thumbs up for that.
    d0v3b3rd
    When bands do this, it makes me think about Thrice and their jump from The Artist in the Ambulance to Vheissu. I had a hard time with it, but Vheissu is now one of my favorite albums. This album unfortunately has no semblance of that kind of Brilliance, It's good Try with minimal effort and Track 5, 6 and 7 are good. but the lyrics seem Contrived and trite in many songs. It's a good filler album for their record label IMO.
    LockNessa
    I've been a dredg fan for quite some time and I've loved each and every album they've released. It's sad to read so many people talking sh*t about the new album 'Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy'...although it may not be one of their finest pieces of work, it's an expression of dredg. My only hope is that people embrace the new album for WHAT IT IS, NOT WHAT IT ISN'T. What it isnt is 'El Cielo', or 'Catch Without Arms'... it's a different approach to their sound and I find it highly respectable. I also find it very disheartening that when an artist ventures off "their main path' they are criticized for taking a chance. It's takes a leap of faith to try something new in the face of masses and dredg did exactly that. Frankly, I don't want to hear another album they have already done. I am happy to add more dredg music to my library and will continue to support the music they make
    vinnym86
    Bug Eyes and El Cielo are all i have. Didn't enjoy Periah as much, but still killer. This? Not heard it yet, buuut, Dan the Automator is THE SHIT! Excited to hear this, will disregard review until then, but great writing.
    vjferrara
    I hate the album. I've been a fan since 2004 and I was excited to hear about a new Dredg album until I started to listen to the tracks on Youtube. I bought it just to support them but I will definitely not be listening to it that often.
    Macabre Lullaby
    Hmm, interesting. Seems like a subjective vs objective sort of thing. I've certainly heard of dredg before, but never got around to listening to them. So, with a clean slate, this sounds pretty cool to me. The beauty of no expectations.
    Spoony_Bard
    Dude, words cannot describe how depressed I am that this album seems to be a massive departure from their sound, and fails miserably. I'm afraid to listen to it. They're seriously my 2nd favorite band ever, now...
    bear_rides
    This album straight up sucks. There's no way a fan of their previous albums would like this - pure unadulterated crap! Track 3 entitled 'The Tent' gets my vote for lamest-most-boring-drab-piece-of-shit song of the year. Booooo!
    Sir-Shredalot
    Some interesting instrumentation ideas, not a great recording or production, the vocals have lost a lot of their passions..sounds like he was recording them in his apartment and didnt want to go to loud.
    EpiExplorer
    mark3777 wrote: Jon777 wrote: That album cover terrifies me. it scares me more than any slipknot photo I've seen
    Clearly none of you have seen 'Rectal Torment' by Diminished.
    mark3777
    Jon777 wrote: That album cover terrifies me.
    it scares me more than any slipknot photo I've seen
    katalyzt13
    I felt like this album is the possible crashing/burning of dredg. The only track I enjoyed was Kalathat. Their previous releases are far superior in every way.
    Kirborg
    i remember the time when el cielo was released and people were hailing them as the new incarnation of alt art rock... things have sure changed a lot since then. haven't listened to this new record yet but will definitely give it a spin, if only for the sentimental value the band holds for me.
    SydBareass
    This is a great review of the album. I bought it with high hopes yesterday and my initial disappointment turned into appreciation with repeated listens. After knowing what to expect, I can separate this album from the others and hear it for what it is, an experiment. Radiohead did it with Kid A; My Morning Jacket did it with Z. Let the guys experiment all they want, they'll find the right balance soon enough.