Category: The Chambermaids

Review: The Chambermaids, Down In The Berries

The Chambermaids, Down In The Berries
(Modern Radio)

Twin Cities post-punk quartet The Chambermaids sounds like it might have stepped out of a time machine, freshly arrived from 1983. Its new seven-song Down In The Berries fits comfortably back-to-back with spiky, art-punk classics like Wire’s Chairs Missing or Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, and though it’s undeniable that the band’s hardly breaking new ground by bringing that sound into 2009, it’s accomplished with real verve, driving rhythm, and a good ear for pop hooks and harmonies.

If ’80s post-punk is alive and well in The Chambermaids’ hands, though, the compact disc is dead in the gutter: Down In The Berries is only available on vinyl and as a download. It’s a trend that’s becoming increasingly common—Vampire Hands did the same thing for their new Hannah In The Mansion. Perhaps not coincidentally, VH’s Colin Johnson is also the former drummer for The Chambermaids, leaving them amicably shortly after recording Berries to focus on his other group. The Chambermaids have since picked up a new drummer in ex-Shotgun Monday skinsman Mickey Kahleck, and a second guitarist in STNNNG/Private Dancer ax-wielder Nate Nelson. Fronting the band are brother-and-sister co-vocalists Neil and Martha Weir, and their deft musical interplay is apparent not only in their harmonizing, but the way Neil’s My Bloody Valentine-esque guitar lines spark off Martha’s bass work. Johnson’s drumming, meanwhile, is almost brutally direct compared with Vampire Hands’ two-percussionist complexity. But the more simple approach serves the songs here well, giving the shoegaze-style title track a shot of adrenaline that works like a series of exclamation points. The weak link here is Neil’s flat and monotone singing, which serves the music adequately but without lending the dominant stamp of personality that Ian Curtis or Colin Newman gave their bands. Martha, on the other hand, adds liveliness everywhere the way Kim Deal spices up the Pixies, whether she’s just lending an “oooh-aah-oooh” in the background or taking the lead on “The East Place.”

Grade: B+

Upcoming shows: Aug. 29, Turf Club, Sept. 15, Triple Rock Social Club

The Chambermaids, “Lily”:

The Chambermaids perform “Down In The Berries” on 89.3 The Current:

Originally published Aug. 28, 2009 in The A.V. Club Twin Cities.

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