The Chevin - Borderland Album Review
First things first - Borderland is full of elemental things. Waves crash against the shore. Mountains meet the sky. The stars appear above so close that you feel The Chevin's lead singer Coyle Girelli could reach out and touch one with his soaring, multi octave range. Make no mistake, if ever environments shaped a body of work, both the chilly pine woods high above the band's home town of Otley and the Texas desert where it was recorded are deeply embedded here in almost every note. If ever you wanted to describe a record as the opposite of urban, Borderland would be your exhibit A.
Such are the economic realities of the music industry that the three week recording stint for it were due to affordability rather than 20 hour sessions played until fingers bled. Despite the deadline however the band seem to have revelled in the pressure and results sound far from rushed. Opener Champion is already well known to American talk show viewers, a pulsing hybrid of no lesser than Duran Duran and War era U2, harnessing many of the same influences as Mr. B. Flowers and sounding as melodramatic and stadium ordained as anything from the Las Vegan's early cannon.
The four piece - as well as Girelli Mat Steel (guitar), Jon Langford (bass) and Mal Taylor (drums) - admit only to being aware of The Killers rather than owing them any conscious debt. There are moments when the melodramatic flair and their powerhouse rhythm section make this sound like a very brave rebuttal, but the country twang of Blue Eyes and the epic spaghetti western histrionics of the title track go a long way in addressing any prejudices.
Wisely Girelli's writing chooses not to just touch on textures which are familiar to the National Geographic channel. Here the subject of Champion seems unsure whether he fits the mantle of the role model everyone seems to want him to be, whilst on Dirty Little Secret the protagonist wrestles with being the incognito third side of a love triangle. Each lend some pathos to a musical backdrop full of such structural precision it's hard to believe it didn't take 6 months to complete rather than a few days in the wilderness.
It would be hard to conceive and execute an album with these sky scraping values and avoid occasional self indulgence, so it's to the band's credit that only the Imagine-esque exhortations for global peace of Beautiful World do they cross the line into naivety. If the awkwardness of one consciousness politics jar for us short sighted Brits, it doesn't interfere with delivery of the slightly incongruous but riotously pop Colours, the trampolining synth vamps pepping up a disco glitter ball of something as lyrically uncomplicated as a bad luck love story.
Borderland is a début that illustrates The Chevin's boundless ambitions, where no horizon isn't there to be raced to. It's on Gospel however that their goal is finally revealed, a homecoming song which might be about somewhere in the North of England, but equally anyone that makes an admission that they want to "Write a screenplay for the human race" has a desire to communicate more universally than that. A record made about our planet and all the things on it, in all four dimensions? We can't wait for album number 2.
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