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The Chapman Family Burn Your Town Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Thunderous and well-produced gloomy goth-rock from the northeast.

Mike Haydock 2011

Everything about Stockton-on-Tees band The Chapman Family reeks of an attempt to create a cult – or, worse, the impression of a cult. A cult constructed to suck you in, give you a sense of belonging, and then sell you things. It’s there in their band name, it’s there in their "rebellious" album title, and it’s there on the album cover: teenagers kissing in a bleak subway. So even before spinning this, The Chapman Family’s debut album, it’s easy to be a little cynical.

The lyrics don’t help. "The kids are not alright, the kids are not okay / The kids are not alright today, dontchaknow," Kingsley Chapman half-croons and half-yelps on Kids, as though the statement has depth of meaning. And then there’s the endless, banal repetition of "I feel like a million dollars, I feel like a million more" on – you guessed it – Million Dollars. He comes across like a sulky, illiterate version of Paul Smith from Maxïmo Park, spouting lines that children will chant back at him without really thinking about what they’re chanting.

But once you strip away all this nonsense, The Chapman Family’s music is thunderous and well produced. Their rhythm section drives Burn Your Town through its 10 tracks with vigour: indeed, without Pop Chapman’s aggressive work on his bass, the band’s gloomy goth-rock would collapse. He, along with fellow Chapmans Phil (drums) and Paul (guitar), shape a huge crescendo on All Fall that carries what would otherwise be a trite song. Elsewhere, the brooding, darkly lit atmosphere of Anxiety and Sound of the Radio is compelling.

Kingsley’s vocals are the main point of contention. They’re solid and one-dimensional. They drone. You can see what the band are going for – there’s more than a hint of Joy Division in this mix – but Kingsley’s voice doesn’t have the necessary power in the lower registers to complement the racket being made around him. It gets swallowed, and you don’t regret it. It sounds harsh, and it’s tough to type, but there’s one member of this family holding the rest of them back.

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