WKNH Music Director
Loren Howard, first-year film student here at Keene State, has been making music as the band Chodus for a while now. Howard is joined live by Jake Ford on bass and Jason Benghazi on drums. A quick glance through their Bandcamp page will reveal ten releases of records with bold album art. Some are classified as demos, while some are classified as proper releases. Some of them are quick affairs, others a little longer. They are punk in their brevity and their attack. No classic rock lay-back here. I have listened mainly to the record which we are concerned with today. Their last release “happs b” was released on Nov. 17. Howard wrote everything on it, and played the sparse instrumentation himself. All of the record is electric guitar and drums, save for an acoustic track the caps off the album beautifully.
On “happs b” Howard went in alone. The sonics of the record work with the down-home d.i.y rock that Chodus is amazing at producing. “happs b” is a great entry point to the Chodus discography. On this release, Howard writes rabid, careening, and tender songs which all clock in under five minutes, and most live in pop song territory or under. The opening track is the longest on the record at 4 minutes and 20 seconds. “Head Lice are Scared” starts with clattering sounds and eases it’s way into a loosely jammed version of what becomes the song’s main musical elements. This intro goes on for about a minute before launching into the meat of the song and sets the tone for the whole record. It both sets up expectations which will be rewarded and betrayed: That you are in for a loose record, a record which lacks a cohesion or a hook. This is both true and not true. There are a lot of rough edges here, mind you, whether it be a weakness in the kick drum, a harshness in the snare or a dip in a level, or just the guttural and desperate nature that claws out from Howard’s screams and into your brains. But there is also massive payoff. The meandering intro turns into amazing riffs and the riffs turn into amazing hooks, not dissimilar to how the slacker rock deities of Pavement would feel their way into a song.
The riffs are infectious. They play so well with the drumming and the singing, and Howard’s lyrics are crisp, yet odd. Pointed in their intention, yet obscure. And, oh boy, are those images familiar yet surreal. It might be a bias on my part, but that is how I truly enjoy my lyrics. The last track, the acoustic “Planetarium,” displays this in full force, opening with “you cut some holes in a box.” The intro riff melts to rabid folk-punk chordal bashing to again reform to a more solid melodic structure, and the pattern changes up for our final leg. Howard leaves it all on the table. The downstrokes keep coming and and getting heavier. And then, wham! We find ourselves listening to what sounds like someone crying out in reverse.
Listen to this record. The riffs are classic, but they aren’t Richards or Harrison, or even Muddy. They are classic in their structure — it’s notes played in a way that sounds cool with chords played in a way that sound ripping and big and emotive. Classic, man! But the context is one which comes from a commitment to rawness and weirdness. The production is simple, but there are neat little tricks tucked throughout the quick run time, like the way Howard plays with the stereo spread of the guitars and the vocals. This adds a real depth to the album and adds a layer of intrigue that helps keep the album’s infectiousness. If this kind of brashness isn’t for you, then the record might not be for you. However, if that idea thrills you or you just don’t care, there are some truly sick tracks to behold here.
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