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Chad VanGaalen - Diaper Island

Chad VanGaalen, Diaper Island

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE ever reclusive Chad VanGaalen has emerged from his Calgary hideaway to deliver another batch of songs and, in truth, not much has changed.

A larger recording studio has afforded him the opportunity to develop and refine his sound but the trademark sound of psych guitar rock married to harsh harmonics, punky/psychedelic vocals and reverb is still present and correct.

Spread over the course of 12 songs, this doesn’t offer much variety. But there are moments of brilliance worth tapping into.

Primary among these is the whistle-laden Sara, a stripped back and almost acoustic celebratory paean to the ability of his partner and muse for nurturing his creativity in the face of much uncertainty. It’s laidback, lovingly delivered and really rather beautiful, with a chorus to die for.

Album opener Do Not Fear is also pretty great – a chiming psych guitar and foot-tapping beat married to psychedelic vocals enabling VanGaalen to once more ponder life and death as only he knows how.

Peace On The Rise, meanwhile, offers some lyrical optimisim amid a lush, warm guitar harmony that has a nice retro vibe about it, much like the similarly laidback and expertly delivered Heavy Stones.

If anything, the album works better when keeping things laidback and the melodies tight, whereas the rockier moments – such as the full speed ahead Freedom For A Policeman – not working as well.

But even then, there are still experimental asides where VanGaalen doesn’t quite hook it up right, such as Can You Believe It?!, a hazy mix of The Pixies old school punk with the electronic bleeps and whistles of a latter day Beck.

Wandering Spirits, meanwhile, is just too desolate, both instrumentally and lyrically (“hanging out in nowhere land”).

But like we said, when VanGaalen gets it right, there’s plenty to admire. And the album is drawn to a close with the terrific one-two of No Panic/No Heat (lovely) and Shave My Pussy, which quite possibly drops one of the most addictive and lush riffs on the LP complete with a nice sense of humour.

Download picks: Do Not Fear, Peace on The Rise, Sara, No Panic/No Heat, Shave My Pussy

Track listing:

  1. Do Not Fear
  2. Peace On The Rise
  3. Burning Photographs
  4. Heavy Stones
  5. Sara
  6. Replace Me
  7. Blonde Hash
  8. Freedom For A Policeman
  9. Can You Believe It
  10. Wandering Spirits
  11. No Panic/No Heat
  12. Shave My Pussy