Friday, July 15, 2011

Track Review: Chalk Circle - "The Slap"



Long before the era of Bandcamp and Soundcloud, there was such a thing as label and scene loyalty, so much so that bands actually yearned to sign with specific—often times regional—imprints. Chalk Circle, an all-girl quartet from suburban D.C., is a perfect example. Plying their trade in the nascent, early ‘80s punk uprising, and influenced by overseas contemporaries such as the Raincoats and LiLiPUT, Chalk Circle predictably looked toward the local up-and-coming Dischord roster as the perfect destination for their sub-three chord punk-rock.

Not everything on Post Present Medium’s recently released compilation of twelve of the band’s fifteen original tracks would seem to fit the model of methodical post-punk Dischord is most known for nowadays—all dubbed-out bass lines and vicious guitar eruptions, the likes of which Fugazi, Jawbox, and Smart Went Crazy exemplified in the mid-‘90s. At the time, however, their sound aligned more closely with Dischord’s punk-flavored, “harDCore” (as Don Fleming puts it in the accompanying liner notes) output. The stars never aligned for Chalk Circle and Dischord, but as one more band defiantly doing their own thing against the backdrop of a testosterone-fueled scene, they seem to fit the identity of the label as much as anyone.

“The Slap,” Reflection‘s centerpiece, seems to bridge the gap between Dischord’s stylistic extremes. The righteous, impassioned lyrics, which conflate misogynist trends with societal advancement, seemed ripped from label founder Ian MacKaye’s ideological songbook as then mouthpiece of the Teen Idles and Minor Threat, while the rubber band bass line, stabbing guitar chords, and slowly mounting vocals seem to predict the trends of some of Dischord’s ‘90s acts, not to mention riot girrrls the world over. It’s a nice clip for the band to operate at, opening up their sound a bit more compared to some of the other more claustrophobic moments on the record. The pretty rudimentary live cuts (the band only played four official shows) really accentuate how competent the group was in a more premeditated, studio environment, and songs like “The Slap”—along with other well-developed tracks such as “Scrambled,” “Reflection,” and “The Look”—evidence a talented band with a lot to say but without the appropriate platform to say it. For fans of not only early ‘80s punk but also modern acolytes such as PPM head Dean Spunt—one half of No Age—as well as Grass Widow and Vivian Girls, I can’t recommend this enough. [CMG]

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