Sometimes you are the last at the party. There’s really no good reason why it took me so long to turn my attention to Chelsea Curve’s March album, “All the Things.” It’s been on my agenda for ages, and a lot of people whose opinions I respect have raved about it. Sometimes things slip off your radar when your attention is turned to more squeaky wheels.
It was my mistake, because the Boston-based band’s album is an absolute blast, an incredibly catchy blast of vibrant, peppy rock ‘n’ roll, a little bubblegum and a little whiskey. It’s relentlessly upbeat at times, but there’s always a track, exemplified immediately with the album’s opening number, “Jamie C’mon.” It’s a ridiculously addictive song, a sugary lust-fueled high powered by spectacular percussion, almost custom-built for bouncing around a nightclub.
The band includes Linda Pardee on bass, vocals and “unfancy keys”, Tim Gillis on guitars and vocals, and Ron Belanger on drums and vocals. The album also features what the liner notes call “The Chelsea Curve Mod Squad, featuring Rod Spark on Hammond organ (or “fancy keys”), Dan Levine on trombone and Jay Webb on trumpet. group creates a sound that is both full and light.
This is particularly evident on “Jamie C’mon”, as well as on the more bass-driven “Girl Cavedog”. Pardee is an exceptional vocalist, her voice laced with just enough smoke to balance out the song’s dizzying vibe, especially when she deftly articulates tight lyrics such as “I’ve got theories, maybe they’re memories. / You’re not here, but you will be one day. / I have memories, maybe theories about dreams. / You’re not real, but I’m still in shock.
Similarly, the song “Drag”. – the period is part of the song’s title – manages to lean into its leprechaun mania while accentuating the band’s punk rock side. The song rushes in with abandon, and it’s terribly, terribly fun. This tone intensifies with the next song, “Do All the Things”, where the drums crash and the guitars screech, before giving way to the slightly more nuanced song, “Inconceivable!”
While it’s an exercise for the listener to know if Pardee is being ironic or literal with his verbal gutting of his subject matter, the “Princess Bride” reference in the song’s title puts everything into context. Yet when the song gives way to the irrepressible “Top it Up”, it’s clear that the journey is far more important than any point of view or idea expressed.
In many ways, this album is an exercise in rock ‘n’ roll catharsis, and as such it sticks to some of the genre’s most classic themes, such as youthful romance and heartbreak. , and – in the case of the song “Nuthin’ Goin’ On” – the boredom that comes with idleness. It’s straight out of the punk rock playbook, but the execution is so well done that it looks bright and fresh.
Even when the band strikes a slightly more melancholy tone with “7,000 Hours,” the energy generated by the album upstream continues, lending some weight to the song’s emotional resonance. “You belong somewhere else,” Pardee sings. “I’m getting ready for takeoff./Could we just stay longer?/7,000 hours? It’s on this part of the album that a sense of the stakes develops, with the harrowing “Don’t Look Down” and the lively and assertive “Moriarty”.
There’s an implied sense of danger here, which adds an extra layer to the album. Interestingly, this is also where Gillis takes lead vocals, a shift in perspective that is almost shocking. It feels like a new point of view is being introduced into the narrative, and with Pardee’s bass pounding like a heartbeat, it has an odd way of making everything that came before sound more solid.
The album climaxes with the penultimate song, “A Better Way”, which leans into the album’s cathartic feel. “And when it all goes wrong”, Pardee sings, “I wanna smash ’em in the mouth./No – save it for a rainy day./And when it all goes wrong,/sing along with this song./There must be a better way. Likewise, that punk-tinged optimism fuels the album’s closest, “All in Time.”
“Time is a waste”, Pardee sings, “Time is erasing my mind. / Any one of us / Up next in line. / Time is a waste, / Time is killing me. clear the mind. / It’ll be fine. / It’ll be fine. / It’ll be fine.
What’s amazing is that no matter how cynical and jaded these times are, this album has a way of making you believe it’s true.