Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chelsea - Chelsea

Let's say you're like me, a masochist, and you set out to review the first Peter Criss solo album from 1978, released as part of the band's solo record project where all four members released their own solo record simultaneously, but as KISS.

Follow me?

Anyway, during the course of reading about why that record was such a piece of shit you discover that Criss drummed for another band called Chelsea, and they actually released a record for Decca several years before KISS had ever formed.

And as a masochist you dig deeper, to the point where you actually go and check out this lone Chelsea record, because you are curious: "Just how bad can this band be?"

I suppose it depends on what you consider to be "bad," but the short answer is "pretty bad" with the asterisk by the overall rating indicating that it "has some weird vibe" to it that qualifies Chelsea as a worthy garage sale find, if not for the fact that it contains Peter Cris(s)' first recorded offering, but because it is a slice of how clueless record companies were in 1970, seemingly signing bands with such blind (and deaf) reasoning that an album like this was even considered.

But here are the things that make Chelsea weirdly alluring:

  1. It was produced by the same dude that produced Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and Moondance.
  2. That same dude also produced John Cale's Vintage Violence album.
  3. John Cale performs viola on Chelsea for two tracks.
  4. One of the tracks features him with oodles of reverb, giving the performance a very droney and weird vibe.
  5. The lone track composed by the entire band, "Polly Von," is clearly designed to be the band's "epic" and is somewhat intriguing. It comes complete with strings and an endless guitar solo on one channel while a reverb-laden one is found on the other.
  6. More reverb.
There are many more things that make Chelsea less alluring, primarily:

  1. Chelsea-the band-never seem to discover what kind of band they are. One moment they're folk, another they're a trippy psychedelic band, sometimes they get a little bluesy, and others they want to rock out.
  2. The singer is devoid of personality and an awful songwriter.
  3. Peter Criss' drumming is notably shitty.
The best that frontman Peter Shepley can come up with is along the lines of "It's a long long river/So just let it run/It's a long long journey/But there's only one" ("Long River"), which was probably heavy as fuck at the time, given the amount of drugs these N.Y.C. hippies were ingesting. The worst would have to be the line "hard rock music" repeated over and over ("Hard Rock Music") while Criss inexplicitly bangs on some bongos.

Squint hard enough and you can hear some kindred spirits with the Velvet Underground, particularly with Cale's brief cameo. But such squinting can also make a migraine, which is ultimately ill-advised since Chelsea can produce enough of a headache on its own thanks to the band's endless parade of indecision and meanderings.

In other words, Chelsea is much better than Criss' 1978 solo offering and, to be completely honest, it's better than a bunch of titles in KISS' catalog. But other than the novelty of serving as a footnote to KISS' pre-makeup history...excuse me, kisstory...there is very little need to seek out Chelsea.

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