Every college town has a band of guys who like good music and who like to get together and rock out at the local bar. You know their motivation is to bring a little bit of coolness into their lame-ass town, who, for one night, can offer an escape from the blahdom of bar-bands, booze, and classic rock. When I was in college, it was Nirvana, then Pearl Jam, then Pavement, Superchunk, Dinosaur Jr., Archers of Loaf, Modest Mouse, Promise Ring, At The Drive-In. Now it's 2003, and I really have no idea who the kids today want to be. I'm happier that way.
Sadly, it would be quite easy for Chatham to fall through these cracks. It's nothing personal; "rock" is something guys like to get together and do. That many of these bands don't have the originality to make an album says a lot about Chatham and their talent. That they can make an album that's not directly inspired by their influences is also even more impressive. It's also reassuring to note that while they're not breaking much new ground, you can hear that they're not fully retreading the familiar sounds of the current underground.
Something New kicks off with "Letdown," which is easily the worst number of the lot; the vocals are quite annoying, and the affair is just blah--a shame, because the rest of the album is nothing like that initial number. Of course, this might be a little psychologcial game, making you go, "whoa, genius!" when you get to the next song, "Leafs." The other six songs are very much along the same lines of "Leafs," with a mellowed-out, slowed-down, slightly stoned rock groove that barely hints at Archers of Loaf's slower moments--or AOL's student Will Johnson's melow Centro-matic project South San Gabriel, actually--but in reality is a sound that they can truly call their own. Stoner rock for grad students? Pretty darn close. Though at times the songs kind of all blend together, I'm pretty impressed with grooved-out closer "Stalwart."
If anything, Chatham are having a good time just making rock music. I think that a band can't ask for any more than that, and when they get what they ask for, it's a truly great thing to behold. Something Fell is the sound of some guys having fun. You know, just like Archers of Loaf did. A pretty good debut, but I'm certainly looking forward to hearing where they go from here.