March 29, 2004

Chubby "Is It Time?"

On one level, I was looking forward to this record. It seemed as if it was going to be a record that was going to kick my ass, rock my world and leave me wanting more, more and still more! The opening track, "Serious," was a really great start; the crunchy guitars, the loud vocals, the general in-your-faceness of it all seemed to provide enough evidence that Chubby was going to be some major players in the second wave of alt-rock onslaught. After all, Brockenborough's pedigree of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones also led me to think that these guys were gonna rock and rock hard.

It didn't quite work out that way.

Chubby is the new band from former Mighty Mighty Bosstone trombone player Dennis Brockenborough, but if you're expecting Chubby to give you ska-punk to skank at, you're going to be disappointed. Is It Time? doesn't recall or even hint at the Bosstones' glory days. Don't fear, for Chubby does sound like 1993--AKA the amalgam of hard rock/alternative-rock/grunge that seemed to be everywhere eleven years ago. Listening to Is It Time? reminds me of Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam and any other band that toured Lollapalooza back then.

What's most disappointing with Is It Time? is how bland it all is. Brockenborough's previous band was a very dynamic, loud and their studio recordings naturally had a live feel to them. I'm wondering if he's trying to make a record that captures a live feel. If such is the case, then that's what causes Chubby to stumble. Dennis sounds as if he's overreaching on his vocals; he's yelling over his bandmate's hard-rock riffs, making his vocals mumbly, monotonous and forgettable. When you're in the studio, you shouldn't have to fight to be heard over your band, and listening to "A Day & A Half" and "For What It's Worth," Brockenborough is struggling to be heard, which is a major annoyance.

What makes this misstep even more disappointing is that it seems as if several songs have a potential for greatness were it not for the straining vocals. Almost all of the songs on Is It Time? potentially sound good, if you like hard rock. "Seeing Stars" (and, heck, the rest of the record) could be awesome, if it wasn't for Dennis' struggling vocals. Considering that these songs already have a live feel to them, I have this suspicious feeling that these songs sound better live, because they already have a live feel to them. For the next record, though, I really hope they work on those vocals, because I can hear something much better than this.

--Joseph Kyle

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