The Chap - Well Done Europe - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Chap - Well Done Europe

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2010-05-24

The twisty, ants-in-your-pants art-rock The Chap demonstrate on forth album Well Done Europe will not be to everyone's taste, coming as it does with a large side order of knowing smirk. However, if you're a fan of 70s Sparks, early XTC or the more art school end of Britpop, Well Done Europe may well be an album you'll cherish. First track 'Well Done You' is like Blur's 'Starshaped' as played by Devo - sparse, spiky dynamics and mockingly encouraging lyrics such as "Well done you/ You've really, really got the hang of it." It's a brilliantly, engagingly odd album opener.

On the flip-side of that song's morale-boosting sentiment is 'We'll See to Your Breakdown', its lyrics - "You will never have a job/ You will never have much in this town again/ We'll see to that 'cos we hate you" - half-chanted in a coldly business-like manner over stuttering, jagged beats and strings. It's like being in the work assessment from hell. It's also weirdly poppy. Not all of Well Done Europeis this abrasive. 'Nevertheless, the Champ', 'Few Horoscope' and 'Obviously' are quirky, sparkling synth-pop songs, the latter enlivened by a beautiful, yearning, Durutti Column-style guitar solo.

Like Blur's breakthrough Modern Life is Rubbish, Well Done Europe seems to take a sardonic look at the stress and loneliness of life in a modern British city and the disconnection from basic feelings that can occur. However, where Modern Life is Rubbish was kitsch and playful, enjoying the trash culture and paranoia it discovered among the morning commuters, Well Done Europe is darker and creepier. On 'Torpor', a disembodied, exhausted-sounding voice mumbles about "the corner shop" in a way that makes it sound like the most desolate destination on Earth. Meanwhile, 'Obviously' - a song which seems to explore the shared assumptions and superstitions which enable people to get through mundane, depressing lives - revolves around the mournful refrain, "Is anybody still out there?"

These moments of vulnerability and insight should help win over people who would usually be turned off by The Chaps' knowing art-pop. What won't help the band's case are the pop culture reference points which are quite superfluously shoved in to almost every song. 'Well Done You' name-checks Bruce Springsteen's 'Dancing in the Dark'. 'We'll See to Your Breakdown' shoehorns in a nod to Shakira's 'Hips Don't Lie'. 'Obviously' mentions Richard Dawkins. Closing track 'Chalet Chalet' drops in Easyjet, texting and GPS for no obvious reason. It's all a little annoying and unnecessary and mid-way in the album you find yourself waiting for the next pointless, winkingly-deployed cultural reference rather than enjoying a fantastic track like 'Maroccan Nights', which manages to combine the churning DIY hum of Micachu and the Shapes with the fizzy indie-pop of 80s groups like Hey! Elastica.

That aside, Well Done Europe is a great, odd, intriguing album with rewards repeat listens. Despite the awkward first impression it makes, it's actually full of hooks and powerful melodies as well as leftfield, witty lyrics such as "We had a holiday/ it's like dementia", from 'Pain Fan'. They might be self-consciously smart and weird, like someone you'd go out of your way to avoid at a party, but The Chap are actually one of the best UK bands around right now.

Comments (2)

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haha Rich, was totally brain-fading out to this at work till half way through 'Even Your Friend' and now I'm pretty sure it's love....

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It is a great album. It's a grower, I think.

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