It is an unfortunate fact that the kind of music that Chubby and the Gang makes has never been ‘major label’ fodder, at least not in recent times. This is true for the band members themselves, who had previously cut their teeth as part of the London hardcore scene.
Take the lead for example: Charlie, who had played everything from drums in Abolition, to guitar for Arms Race before starting the true crowd-pleaser that is this band.
When I was first listened ‘Speed Kills’, their previous album released last year, I was told that this was an important part of their M.O. They are hardcore scene veterans, playing the music they like, which has earned them the rare accolade of “real punk band with a huge record deal”.
They are almost the reverse of what’s supposed to be cool to punks, gaining only more respect the bigger they get.
So, as a band with nothing else left to prove, how does Chubby’s new album: ‘The Mutt’s Nuts’ live up to the excitement surrounding the band, and how does their sound compare to the kind of punk that gets major label backing?
Well to start, Chubby and the Gang are technically brilliant on this album. All the performances are excellent, straight up and perfect, right from the first track: ‘The Mutt’s Nuts’.
The dynamic changes are tight, and their energy is so palpable in the recording, it feels like listening to them live. Drummer: Joe McMahon plays directly and without much flair, avoiding any pretence whilst still managing to amaze.
I’ve seen the band’s sound described as “hardcore kids playing pub rock”, which I feel is underselling them. Sure, they wear their influences on their sleeves, but this isn’t a Oi! punk cover band, despite how the lead vocals sound.
I think ‘Coming Up Tough’ is a good track for proving this read as wrong. For one, the emotion isn’t done for effect, you feel a genuine anguish coming from lead: Charlie’s vocals and lyrics.
His delivery is convincing, and lends itself well to the strutting, catchy guitar riff that belts it’s way throughout the whole track. By the time I was hearing the chorus for the first time, I knew this band wasn’t a gimmick, and the song became my favourite of the whole album.
Another aspect that puts Chubby’ above the rest is the sincere lack of noise throughout the album. Take for example, the track: ‘Life on the Bayou’, which seems to grow it’s sound as it goes on.
They don’t rely on atmospherics or drone to give a sense of depth and size to the song, just good use of instrumentation. Piano, organ and harmonica are all layered tastefully to build a track that swells beautifully.
This plays into the second half of the album, which has some more subdued and mellow tunes. I think a strength of Chubby‘ is to know when to slow down, making the opening tracks hit harder in contrast. Two tracks of this ilk: ‘White Rags’ and ‘Life’s Lemons’ play this tone in two separate ways.
The former has a crashing, almost psychedelic quality to it, with the lyrics shouting of the hidden terror lurking within the American legal and political systems. Standard fare, but the grungy heaviness of the song adds to the already large repertoire of the album’s sound.
Likewise with the latter track: ‘Life’s Lemons’: a downbeat dare-I-say indie ballad. I really admire the band for this song, a genuinely pretty song with well used harmonies and threading guitar solos that promises: “every storm, it comes to pass”.
As the jangly, somewhat bittersweet track: ‘I Hate the Radio’ plays, I realise I’ve had a lot of fun with this album.
It takes itself seriously when needs be, but isn’t too cool to just explore other avenues of expression outside of the sound they’ve come to be known for. I can see Chubby and the Gang having a lot more to offer in that respect, as they are flexible enough to continue to surprise.
But if you want an album with classic punk nostalgia, great lines, amazing performances, and a tracklist that never feels stale or out of touch, then look no further. Other than that, I think it’s only right to quote Charlie from their electric set I saw at End of The Road festival on Saturday:
“Post Punk isn’t real because Punk never ended”.
‘The Mutts Nuts’ is available now from Partisan Records.