Sunday, 1 May 2011

Chapter Eleven - Death Is Far Away E.P. Preview


Can someone say 'spoiled for choice'? Acoustic punk two-pieces suddenly appear to be rather en vogue of late, or maybe I've just not been paying attention. Anyway, fresh off of reviewing the excellent Torn Out/Limited Means split E.P. comes news of another acoustic punk two-piece, this one forming out of the ashes of the sadly deceased Four Letter Cure. I may be wrong, but I might be able to legitimately claim that I was there for Chapter Eleven's debut show, back at the Comedy Pub in Piccadilly Circus last October. Whether you can call it an official debut is questionable - at the time, it was simply a stop-gap to fill the slots originally booked for Four Letter Cure, with their frontman Hassan Afaneh roping in his buddy Asher Baker, slinging acoustics round their necks and making the best of the situation. At this show, they mainly focused on hastily rehearsed FLC songs and covers (including a heroic but doomed attempt at Rise Against's 'Like The Angel'), but they closed their ramshackle set with an original, 'This Ship', a vitriolic polemic sung entirely by Asher denouncing an old friend whom has slid into the clutches of the BNP/EDL 'bloody foreign bastards' mentality. These four minutes or so were a glimpse to what was to come, and so, in the same way My Third Leg rose from the wreckage of The Constant G's, here Chapter Eleven was born.

One of the useful things about acoustic acts is that you can literally play anywhere you like, and that's exactly what C-11 have done; from pubs and bars in Kent and London to parks, beer gardens and friend's living rooms, you name it, C-11 have probably played there. And having linked up with Martin Savale of Asian Dub Foundation, no less, their debut recorded output is ready for release on Pornography for Cowards records in a matter of weeks. By way of a preview, the band have posted up two tracks to stream on their Bandcamp page, a link to which will be posted at the bottom of the page. One of the two tracks is actually the aforementioned 'This Ship', and it's good to know that my memory wasn't playing tricks on me - it's still as furious and impassioned as ever, wiith Asher delivering his low-key vocals through sharply gritted teeth. An ace card the band possesses over some of their peers are the dual vocals, and Asher's more subtle and soulful tones compliment Hassan's gravelly barks, and the two trade off vocals very effectively on the other preview track, 'Night Bus', where Hassan ends up doing his best Justin Sane impression in the verses to great effect. These neat vocal lines go hand-in-hand with unquestionably the band's greatest strength; excellent lyrics.

I actually read through the lyric sheets before listening to the tracks, and they're probably the best I've read all year, if in a long time. Swap the structure around a bit and these could easily stand on their own as pieces of literature, such is the strength of the prose on display. Both songs are strong on imagery, with '...Ship' describing how '
it really is a shame, they paved the ground we used to play/ And when you walk down past the skate park, you’ll see there’s no one there', and how the narrator 'can still remember all the games we used to talk about/ When that Chinese shop in Peckham sold you Final Fantasy' before decrying how 'since those days, we haven't spoken, and the TV says Britain's broken/ I guess I’ll never be the same, and I’ll say the same for you.' 'Night Bus' is even more starkly poetic, with the disallusioned youth theme reaching a zenith at the lines 'Can't help but feel like my life passed me by/ My friends and I made history tonight/ Society gave up on us this time/ But try as we might, we’re not ready for the sky'. To the many generic punk bands that exist nowadays; I hope you're busy taking notes on how exactly to write powerful and evocative lyrics, rather than a series of clich├ęd slogans held together with twigs and chewing gum spat from the mouth of a paranoid anarchist.

Musically, the band cannot quite match the strength of their words, although as already mentioned, their vocals are very good. Their biggest problem is the fact that their lyrics evoke a classic paradox with acoustic punk acts - whilst the fact that they are performed acoustic adds a special charm to them, lyrics with such emotional punch as this almost deserve a full electric backing. They have the opposite problem to many electric bands, who have the crashing drums and muscular riffs sorted but only end up producing 'Tomy's My First Protest Song' quality lyrics. However, they have expressed ambitions to potentially go electric in the future, so they already have the luxury of choice in place - will it be electric carnage or acoustic campfire soul tonight, sir? Also, the recent addition of a semi-permenant third member, Stuart Sim on bass, adds another dimension to the acoustic chords, with his neat and unfussy basslines running underneath the guitars like undersoil heating. All promising stuff, then, and I'll happily join the que of those waiting in anticipation for the full E.P. release.

Chapter Eleven on Facebook

Chapter Eleven's Bandcamp Page

Top photo by Dominic White.

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