Chew Lips were one of my hotly tipped bands for 2010, even though, in all honesty, I knew they weren’t commercial enough to actually break out into the mainstream. But I really liked them when I compiled that list, and I hope some bias is okay… So here they are, with a debut album made and packaged. So what’s it really like?
Well it all starts rather promisingly: opener “Eight” struck me as a more English version of Lykke Li’s opener “Melodies and Desires” and that’s no bad thing. It’s a lovely, if a little short, intro that draws you into the world of Chew Lips nicely.
Next we’ve got a run of singles. Firstly, “Play Together”, starting with some electronic bleeps that could have been made on a casio – but the song’s called “Play Together”, it’s meant to be fun and joyous, so we can easily accept that! It’s short and sweet, not overstaying it’s welcome (and that’s a hard thing to do). The song ends with voice manipulation, a favourite trick of mine, and it’s well-managed, not overshadowing the style of frontwoman Tigs and managing to sound accessible and mainstream at the same time. Lovely stuff. “Slick” is my favourite song on “Unicorn”. It has the minimal quality of a band like the XX mixed in with the strange bleeps of the Knife, combined with the commercial voice of Tigs. Actually, she rather comes into her own here as her voice moves from hushed and downbeat to more powerful and emotional. Add some classic piano to the mix and it’s a real grower.
Next up it’s one for the indie-kids. The third single “Karen” is the album’s first guitar-lead track and oddly enough, it doesn’t contrast badly with the electronic songs that precede it. I imagine it is a hard thing to do to get the balance between machines and guitars right but I think here Chew Lips get it just about right. Add into the mix a good sing-along moment in “You can shooow her” and “Karen” stands out as one of the album’s best tracks.
But then for some reason Chew Lips lose their way. From that point onwards the band lose sight of their goal, manoeuvering between the electronic, indie and mainstream with difficulty. “Too Much Talking” tries too hard to be a ballad with a bit of punch, falling flat at the idea. Some of the tracks on the album even manage to be utterly forgettable. This isn’t because they’re bad, but rather because a large chunk of the second half of this album sounds weirdly similar. I would find it hard to distinguish between “Toro” and “Two Years”. I have to say though that this doesn’t mean that it’s a dreadful second half – it’s merely pleasant, but not indispensible like the first half of the album is. Maybe the downfall of Chew Lips was the decision to place all of the singles at the front of the album instead of spreading them around, breaking up the electronic and the indie…
It’s too bad that they couldn’t keep the pace of the first four tracks up or it would have been a brilliant album. Oddly enough, Chew Lips made the brave decision of leaving their earliest singles, “Salt Air” and “Solo” off the album. Both of these songs were brilliant, in the mould of “Slick”. Now that I think about it, all of those songs begin with the letter “S” – perhaps they should only write songs that begin with this letter, as it seems to be the winning formula for them. Hopefully next time they’ll get that formula just right.