Search The Line of Best Fit
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Chemtrails' The Joy of Sects is a cotton candy psych fest

"The Joy of Sects"

Release date: 19 January 2024
Chemtrails – The Joy of Sects – Album Artwork
19 January 2024, 08:30 Written by Joshua Pickard

Escapism is Manchester-based quartet Chemtrails' mantra.

It’s a succinct and accurate description of their loopy genre-assimilating sound. Their aggregate noise is rooted in the histories of countless musical genealogies, drawing from girl groups and surf and pop music while maintaining the biting witticism of Blondie and the raucous humor of The B-52s. But rather than play “spot the influence,” the band uses these inspirations and differing rhythmic chronologies as stepping stones in the search for their own voice, a post-aesthetic jumble of familiar tonalities inverted and doused in Day-Glo fluorescence and dressed up in playful punk attire.

Their new album, The Joy of Sects, is a fairground filled with saccharine melodies spiked with mischievous narratives of the apocalypse and other humorous observations. Opener “Detritus Andronicus” gets the message across quickly: liquid guitar lines melting around bubblegum harmonies and bound by livewire theatrics – The Ronettes by way of Veruca Salt – and while the album does tend to bow on occasion under the weight of this iridescent mash of techniques, the band stays true to their vision of falling completely in love with these sounds, finding escape in the throes of creation. “Superhuman Highway” sounds as though the band’s collection of Beach Boys records are being fed through a giant grinder; a broadcast from a parallel existence, pop music for the industrially minded.

Not everything works, however, as “Bang Bang” feels a bit listless, with its staid vocal posturing and elastic rhythms doing little to mask its creative lethargy. “Apocalypstick” channels the pop mania of the DuckTales theme song but boils everything down to a boring composite of influences. Thankfully, they do tend to stick to their strengths, finding a surreal energy in tracks like “Sycophant’s Paradise” and “Join Our Death Cult,” while delving into synth-punk affections and garage-pop that would make ? & The Mysterians blush. These songs wield jittery surf-punk atmospheres like blunt objects, inhabiting alternate realities where Dick Dale and The Tornadoes share the same airwaves as The Go-Go’s and Suicide.

There’s a menacing stomp to closer “Endless Stream of the Bizarre,” guitars shivering in the low evening chill of a lost Morricone soundtrack. It builds slowly, voices tumbling over one another, drums ushering us into the embrace of the night, before reaching a fevered pitch and then disappearing like smoke from a dying ember. It’s easily the album’s most ambitious track and its most memorable. The Joy of Sects is a curious and complicated artifact, the sound of a band processing a multitude of experience and emotion, cutting through the noise of their lives and their influences to explore a unified vision of sound, irrevocably binding themselves together in a shared pursuit of revision and adaptation.

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