In her memoir Girl In A Band, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon wrote that “When you listen to old R&B records, the women on them sang in a fierce, kick-ass way. In general, though, women aren’t really allowed to be kick-ass.” On their second album Time To Go Home, Seattle lo-fi guitarslingers Chastity Belt rage against this state of play. It’s a record about boredom, going out, partying, getting laid and the consequences of one’s actions, and more specifically, the imbalance in gender equality.
They cut to the chase of mansplaining on the opener “Drone”. Its lyrical motif “He was just another man trying to teach me something” is borrowed from Sheila Heti’s book How Should A Person Be? Musically it’s quite literally a drone, with hazy guitars underscoring singer Julie Shapiro wonderfully world-weary vocal. It ends with the resigned, solitary line “I never expect much from anyone/So I’m never dissapointed.” But if its tone, which is foreboding, initially gives you the impression that Time To Go Home is going to be doom laden, well it isn’t. Yes, this is serious music, but it blends a mischievous sense of fun and incredulity at its heart.
The balance of the genders is sharply redressed on “Cool Slut”. The title isn’t a paradox, rather a statement of intent - the key line is “So what? We like to fuck, we just wanna have some fun.” Musically it starts off like The Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves The Sun?” and Shapiro’s lyrics, which are a constant delight, are endlessly quotable here. They sound flabbergasted by the notion that the right to have fun is perceived to be a male only domain ("To all the girls in the world trying to take off their shirts/Ladies, it’s OK to be slutty").
The intro to “Joke” flirts outrageously with The Only Ones' “Another Girl, Another Planet” and ends with a spiky guitar battle a la Television’s Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. In between the chorus sounds so relentlessly poppy and light that it’s only on closer inspection you realise its words are the rather dark “I feel far away for a while, I'm gonna light you on fire.” The title track itself is both the sound of the end of the party and coming to terms with moving on. “Everything is beautiful, because we’re delusional, yes… I think I’ve figured it out.” The music matches the energy of a night out, starting slowly, building up to a crescendo and then winding down.
They’ve made a significant leap from their debut, the deliberately misspelt No Regerts - the songwriting and playing here is far more assured. Recorded in a deconsecrated church, there’s a lovely natural reverb to the vocals and Lydia Lund’s arpeggiated guitar, with bassist Annie Truscott and drummer Gretchen Grimm holding down the groove in a coolly restrained and unfussy manner. Occasionally the sense of ennui is slightly overdone, the summery West Coast pop of “Why Try” seemingly only contains those two words and the frenetic “IDC” (which of course stands for “I don’t care”) comes to a lethargic halt. But the record works brilliantly as a feminine riposte to The Strokes Is This It? - a heady story of women hitting the town, but more importantly, seeing the bigger picture.