written by Chris Familton
Album number four finds Chad VanGaalen concocting his most complete full length set of songs and eschewing much of the willful disorientation and quirkiness that characterised some of his earlier releases. VanGaalen also moved into a professional studio to record these songs which has resulted in a lush aural embrace of sound to get lost in.
Diaper Island still manages to find a bunch of unique corners to shine a musical light into and it is those areas of the album that make it such a compelling listen. VanGaalen isn’t afraid to wear childhood influences like Sonic Youth and Pavement on his sleeve with Peace On The Rise particularly referencing the guitar tone and chiming chords of Thurston Moore. The post-punk guitar jangle of Burning Photographs reminds us of VanGaalen’s lo-fi beginnings with its rougher edges and melodic discordancy and then you are drawn into the devotional swoon of Sara – an ode to his partner and muse. It is the most unfettered and beautifully simple moment on the album.
Repetition becomes an effective weapon on Replace Me with its scattershot drums, infinite rhythmic chug and a guitar solo that momentarily frees itself from the song’s headlock before being reined back in quick smart. Guitars are in fact mark the biggest sonic change for VanGaalen. They are now loud, vibrant and certainly not as humble and awkward as they tended to be on previous albums. It is as if he has given himself permission to drop the artful pretense that sometimes masked his songwriting abilities. Singing and playing from his heart has served him well and resulted in an album that sounds rich and fried rather than the playful stirring of earlier works.
out now via Sub Pop / Inertia
this review first appeared in The Drum Media (Sydney)