Chaser - The Big Picture (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


The Big Picture (2010)

Drop Anchor!

There is a certain admiration you've got to have for a band like Orange County's Chaser and their dedication to playing a style of music they obviously love, even if it isn't exactly the taste of the day. You see, Chaser play '90s Epifat style skatepunk in the vein of the legions of bands that were influenced by Bad Religion's Suffer, and they are doing it long after flatirons and crabcore took over the stages of the iconic Vans' Warped Tour. Playing music that's not in trend, however, doesn't exactly ensure that it is good music. While The Big Picture is a slightly more mature band than we may have seen on 2006's Numb America, Chaser still seem to be searching for their own sound.

Skatepunk can live and die on the support of backup vocals, whether it be gang shouts or harmonization. The first thing I noticed on The Big Picture was how the backup "whoa-oh"s were well-arranged and executed but the scratchy punk shouts on "The Big Picture" and "Actions to Ashes" are mixed slightly too loud and end up extremely jarring against the clean and polished style of the lead vocals. Otherwise, the production can't really be faulted--this is a good-sounding record. There are a few added elements that reveal the mark of a producer's touch on the band, like the completely unnecessary church organ on "Debt of a Nation" and the piano on ‘Life as We Know." Both sound like forced attempts to expand the sound of the band and are laughably bad.

Trying to move beyond the confines of their genre works a little better for Chaser when they do it within the songwriting rather than production booth. "More Than You" is chugging mid-tempo pop-punk that places comfortably inside Green Day's later work. Towards the end of the album we get "My Promise," a well-meaning acoustic song that just comes off as kind of a token afterthought. The simple instrumentation bring the lyrics right up front and you see how generic and clichéd they are, and once the chorus hits the vocal melodies start to sound like a watered-down version of Mr. Big's "To Be with You" or Bon Jovi. While neither of these songs is particularly remarkable, it breaks up the going-through-the-motions feeling of the predictable skatepunk tunes found elsewhere.

The Big Picture will likely appeal to a very small segment of the population that thinks no good music comes out in between Pennywise records. There are few songs like the title track and "Beauty and Debris" that show off some really smart songwriting, but the wait between these moments can seem like forever to a listener.