Santa Monica’s CHIEF falls into the unfortunate category of a band which gives a false first impression: they can enthrall with a taste, with one track — and then let you down dramatically when you encounter the full album. The single released prior to their sophomore release was enjoyable (“Night & Day”); but repeated listens prove that CHIEF is just the opposite. Not only does Modern Rituals come off as a rather poor Wilco or even Tom Petty knockoff, but the lyrical content is the worst offender; it’s generic, boring, and even tedious at various points.
Listen to “Night & Day” – DOWNLOAD MP3
Let’s start out on a positive note. By far my favorite song, “Breaking Walls” has a fun chorus and an easy melody. This is what the band should have done the entire time. The other tracks sound like stories you’ve already heard or just wouldn’t be interested in anyway. There is nothing for a listener to attach to or connect with, and even the general instrumental feeling is rather average. How are we supposed to latch onto a song like “Wait For You,” with lyrics so uninspired and saccharine (“My heart is aching and I’m scared/ But I don’t care”) that it is hard to listen to? Even upbeat tracks like “Summer’s Day” are dragged down and overshadowed by tracks like “This Land,” with lyrics which proclaim, “If it was meant to be/ It would happen eventually.”
This may seem unnecessarily harsh. Modern Rituals is a totally pleasant, benign album. There is certainly passion behind the vocals and a ton of talent in the musical department. It just feels as if CHIEF was afraid to take a risk. And that is fine for a band that is okay with their music being described as telling “tales of romantic disappointments” that “evoke a grand sense of nostalgia with their heartfelt melancholy.” This is certainly what they achieve, and instead of falling into the comfortable college radio indie rock, they err towards Americana and a laid-back Californian soundtrack to your teen dramas.