Chastity Belt - Time to Go Home

by Steve Reynolds Rating:8 Release Date:2015-03-30

Straight out of the musically rich area of Seattle are girl-band Chastity Belt with their sophomore album, Time to Go Home, the follow-up to 2013's, No Regerts.

Chastity Belt is guitarists Julia Shapiro and Lydia Lund, bassist Annie Truscott, and drummer Gretchen Grimm. The album was recorded by José Díaz Rohena at the Unknown, a deconsecrated church and former sail factory in Anacortes, and mixed with a cathedral’s worth of reverb by Matthew Simms (guitarist for legendary British post-punks and one-time tourmates Wire).

From the opening bars of ‘Drone’, which as a title has no relevance to the band’s sound, they reward us with a chiming, mellifluous guitar riff accompanied by a pared-down bass and feathered, economical drumbeat. It reminds me of the quirk out of Avi Buffalo. Julia Shapiro’s sharpened, cold and sober vocal tone can at times be hard to pick out as it’s low in the final mix, but you can’t help feeling a shudder when she continually loops the line: “He’s just another man trying to teach me something.”

Steeped in a mix of indie and dream-pop, inked with the clean, dark lines of goth and accompanied by a comfortable ease to gel the genres together, they create the twisty-turny jitter of ‘Trapped’. However, the album takes on interesting twist lyrically with the startlingly titled ‘Cool Slut’. Julia Shapiro revels in her uncouth lyrics by telling us it’s fine to be slutty: “We’re just a couple of sluts/ going out on the town/ fooling around/ getting all dressed up just to get dressed back down…To all the girls in the world/ trying to take off their shirts… Ladies, it’s ok to be free”. 

There is a short musical interlude before her potty mouth starts up again: “We’re just a couple of sluts/ so what/ we like to fuck”.  If it didn’t have such sweary Mary words and a restless song title, it would probably be the single of the year.

‘The Thing’ is a swirling mess of Dum Dum Girls and The Jesus & Mary Chain, equipped with broken guitar, incoherent vocal echo and Shaprio’s locked-in-a dungeon, horror-laden vocal, sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s a Mr Hyde to the album’s Doctor Jekyll. 

‘Joke’ is great, taking the swagger of The Slits and combining it with the confidence of The Pretenders as it stoops and soars with their trademark bright-light guitar weaving its effortless magic. Shapiro remains tempestuous and resolute lyrically, driven on by her fellow band members' tight lines: “I feel far away for a while.. I’m gonna light you on fire.. We are all so pointed that we cry.. Let’s all put it on fire”

“Is it cool not to care?... I got drunk out of boredom… I did not want to be there,” Shapiro tersely calls out on ‘IDC’. The bluntness of her lyrics, equipped with her melancholy, deadpan vox, leaves a chilling after-effect.

Closer and album title track ‘Time to Go Home’ is a fitting finale with its cut-to-the-quick delivery and highly charged vocal. Shapiro is once again in full-throttle: “Yeah, we were sitting in silence/ Nothing worth a while to say/ Wanting something that would cut deep/ Gonna have a minute for the night”.

Chastity Belt has made an album of urgent, darkly-laced pop songs, accompanied by a vocalist who hasn’t reached for the tourniquet yet. Here are 10 songs of catchy, crafted beauty.

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