You know that song you hear on the radio? Or in a supermarket? Or maybe from the neighbours' backyard barbecue while you're on the toilet? That one that you really love, but never remember the name of? You look everywhere for it, having Shazam ready on your iPhone every time you go out, or to the toilet. I could explain the whole thing, but there's a Married with Children episode you could watch instead about this phenomenon that explains it much better. Anyway, I discovered Chase Long Beach through a situation just like this. I had no information other than I knew the song had "Oi Oi Oi!" at the beginning. Do you know how many ska punk songs have "Oi Oi Oi!" at the beginning? A fuckton.
Then, as if it was a sign from God that I should listen to this band again, I pre-ordered Streetlight Manifesto's recent first installment of the 99 Songs of Revolution series of cover albums. To my surprise (and subsequent delight) the CD came with a Victory Records sampler called Introducing... Chase Long Beach!, which I eventually got around to putting in my stereo. The first song was pretty good, and the second impressed me enough to prompt a Googling. I visited their MySpace and BAM! There it was! The Song!
Aside from being a pointless but amusing anecdote, I think this story kind of describes Chase Long Beach's sound. It's like you've heard their songs somewhere before. That's not to say they aren't good, or even that they don't have moments of originality. It's just that they wear their influences on their sleeve. Taking cues from bands like Reel Big Fish (no surprise, as Aaron Barrett produced their first LP, LeBeC), Mustard Plug and Big D and the Kids Table, they stray somewhat from the third-wave ska formula by adding a little fancy guitar work (which is at times riff-a-licious, verging on ska-core) and a little Latin influence. This is refreshing, and whilst not as revolutionary as something like aforementioned labelmates Streetlight Manifesto (yes, fanboy alert) it is entertaining and very, very polished.
Gravity Is What You Make It. begins with the very upbeat "Pall Mall Price Crisis," the first tune on the sampler I mentioned earlier as well. It a pretty good reflection on the rest of the record (that's the reason it was on the sampler, I guess) but I do feel it's one of the weaker tracks on the record. It's still fun, with its silly rap/ragga interlude by bassist Pat towards the middle of the song. Second track "Joe vs. The Cricket," despite its baffling name (another thing this band do well: track names and lyrics [well, most of the latter]; "That's No Moon It's a Space Station," "Diamond Bullet to the Brain, "The Fire Will Burn Us Both Baby" are some good examples) delivers the goods, with bitchin' guitar riffs, mixolydian (I think, don't quote me on that) horn lines and a killer breakdown all contribute to this "Aladdin-core" creation. Next couple of songs are more alt-ska madness--same great quality as the first two. Fifth track "Diamond Bullet to the Brain" features a guest appearance from third-wave legend Kevin Gunther on trumpet, blasting out a bitchin' solo (actually, there's my verdict in a word. Bitchin'.). On a side note, this was the track that I heard first, the subject of the anecdote at the top. So if you're looking to get into this band, listen to this track first. It'll start a fire in your ears.
The next two tracks are catchy if not a little cringe-worthy lyrically. "Bad Habit"'s chorus could've been something special were it not for the words: "When does it end? / How did it even begin? / You're committing social suicide again / A cheating lover, a raging liar." The same could be said for "Swing in "C": "And I see now...things are never gonna go my way / Do you see how...things are never gonna be the same. / Can't deny it...when everything is just not fair / Wanna fight it...pretending that I do not care."
Lowlights over, the album's a strong finisher with stellar tracks "The Beginning" (an instrumental laden with [you guessed it] bitchin' solos), "Where's My Time Stick" (another guitar-driven, ska-core-esque track) and the penultimate "Useless" (featuring Aaron Barrett [!] playing a bit of guitar). Gravity Is What You Make It. ends with, well, "The End." A somewhat operatic closer (which seems a good end for this epic), "The End" begins with a jazzy trumpet motif that regrettably ends 40 seconds in, replaced by a raucous gang vocal-driven waltz, ending with the band members' best impressions of the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
One cutesy bonus track later and the album is over. The thing I liked most about this album was its unapologetic love letter to its influences. And in this crunkcore-y, Ke$ha-y world, where ska is frowned upon, having fun is banned, skanking means something else entirely and a single upstroke will earn you a dirty look, this is a rare thing. This is good stuff, particularly for a sophomore release. It's better than their first, so let's hope that their next is even more bitchin'-er than this one.