Chief : Modern Rituals
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Chief : Modern Rituals

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Chief are like a meal on death row. In simple terms: unfulfilling.

Chief are like a meal on death row. In simple terms: unfulfilling. You’re just about to enjoy the taste and then you look at the plate and there’s nothing left. Hailing from Santa Monica, California, they belied their sunny disposition by settling in New York before they returned home to record this, their debut record. In the warm, resolute way of Tom Petty and in the realms of the confident holler of Neil Young, Chief can be filed alongside such contemporary bands as Band Of Horses and Fleet Foxes.

For all their good attributes, however, they lose their way all too easily. “If all the streets were water / I’d say down the rivers,” sings Danny Fujikawa with convictions on Irish Song. But that is a truism and no great epiphany. There’s not a bad song to be heard, although equally, there is a dearth of songs that force you to listen again and again. Award winning producer Emery Dobyns has the skills to bring out the sparkle in the band, but there’s no real staying power.

It is however, steady as she goes, with a happily pedestrian sound. Nothing’s Wrong breaks the tempo slightly and the harmonies are rich and textured on This Land. This would auger well for the rest of the album, but Chief seem to get caught by a mid-album rut and sound like they are treading water. True to the erratic template, they pick things up by the end with Irish Song, which is dutifully weary and has the nucleus of a well developed idea.

The warmth of the songs could be enhanced with the injection of a little more of a frantic air, properly earnest rhythms and a greater attention to detail. With some more tinkering Modern Rituals may have been a mesmerising listen and the acoustic alienation made a little more palatable. A little more grunt would also make their shinny sounds of barroom laments a little more believable.

As things stand, Modern Rituals is too polished and formulaic for Chief’s own good. One Tom Petty is enough. File next to the ‘check shirt and guitar’ bands in your record collection and maybe in a decade give it another run when it may just sound a little more interesting.