Seattle-based indie rock quartet Chastity Belt remain glued to their unique messages and methodologies on new album I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, but the musicians have ventured away from their old laughable mess ‘n’ noise. This third LP is a product of not only failed Saturday nights, but also the gloomier moments of maturity that shortly follow on Sunday afternoons.
Since 2013, indie rock quartet Chastity Belt have made music out of every 20-something’s contemplations, however intellectual, embarrassing or hilariously simplistic they tend to be. Comprised of frontwoman Julia Shapiro (vocals/guitar), Lydia Lund (lead guitar), Annie Truscott (bass) and Gretchen Grimm (drums), the Seattle-based group introduced itself with No Regerts, a debut album establishing a specific attitude still manifested four years post-release: playful cynicism knotted to being young and getting old. The preliminary punk rock offering was the kind of project that didn’t really demand everyone’s undivided attention, and with the exception of several particularly bombastic tracks like “Giant Vagina,” “James Dean” and “Healthy Punk,” Chastity Belt – sleepy guitars, barely tapped drums, low, tired vocals and all – sounded like they couldn’t care less if anyone else didn’t bother caring a whole lot. Yet, for young adults standing in the same confused, maybe sad and often humorous pair of shoes as the four then-recent college grads, No Regerts was a sharp diary that introspectively weighed in on the good and bad of important stuff, like parties and sex. In this sense, Chastity Belt was the voice of a generation and its experiences, manifested via Shapiro’s musings: “Are they having fun? I think they’re having fun. Are we having fun?”
Fast-forward to today’s I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone (released 6/2/2017 via Hardly Art) and not much has sonically changed for the group, even with the somber sophomore release of Time to Go Home in 2015; in fact, if a Chastity Belt compilation playlist were played on shuffle, trying to figure out which album each song belongs to would be exhausting. But that fact is more of a forgettable observation than a real problem. What matters most is how Chastity Belt remain glued to their own message and disparate methodologies – those exemplified on their first outstanding LP – even though they’ve had more than enough time to stray. So while I Used to Spend may not be a great leap into uncharted territory for these women, it’s still solely theirs – and when it comes to Chastity Belt, no one with functioning ears can sanely drop the whole “their old stuff was better” colloquialism without ending up in brawl with those who’ve slugged through both late youth and early adulthood with the band’s music as a forever-looping backtrack.
These kids putting up a fight are also the ones who will notice that I Used to Spend ventures away from the laughable mess ‘n’ noise of No Regerts and Time to Go Home – indeed, this new record seems to be a product of not only failed Saturday nights, but also the gloomier moments of maturity that shortly follow on Sunday afternoons, when actions belonging to the previous night are victimized by self-ridicule.
Positioned as the record’s easiest-sounding cut, “What the Hell” organically exemplifies this kind of sleepiness with acoustic guitars, while its successor “Something Else” wakes up listeners with rolling drums and Shapiro’s stream of consciousness that’s always so comforting, albeit depressingly so:
I woke up when it was getting dark
that’s not how life is supposed to work
And I looked at my phone
we’re all talking about nothing
I wanna do something really cool
and I wanna get paid
And feel great every day
is that too much to ask?
Tracks like “Complain,” “This Time of Night” and “Stuck” pose the same amount of brazen introspection, although “Complain,” in particular, is most closely tied to the going-out mentality of older Chastity Belt material. The noticeable difference is Shapiro’s party commentary that’s faded from humor to disillusionment – an often-visited emotion that largely summarizes most of I Used to Spend’s narratives and melodies, now partnered with a gentle discordance of off-sounding keys and occasional feedback rather than the mosh-worthy glint of older instrumentals.
Indeed, the wordless introduction of “It’s Obvious” could be mixed up in the melancholic side of The Stone Roses’ catalog, while the simplistic strumming on “Stuck” – where Shapiro’s inflection is also unusually high – is reminiscent of Avril Lavigne’s angstiest days back in the mid-2000s. Still, even the cleanest parts of I Used to Spend aren’t entirely new; for instance, lead single “Different Now” has the same pop build as 2013’s “Seattle Party,” which continues to be the band’s most popular track to date.
Nevertheless, the endearing thing about Chastity Belt is not their power or desire to change it up at the flick of a wrist, but rather their steady interest in mastering the kind of rock they’ve always been good at, the kind that convinces us that we’re not alone. And I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone is yet another confirmation of that interest.
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cover © Hardly Art