Chrome’s new Feel It Like a Scientist completes a cycle of rejuvenation that began last year with the release of Half Machine from the Sun: Lost Tracks (’79-’80). Those lost tracks were discovered while the band was working on this record, and were a clear inspiration. Storms of feedback, vocals from beyond deep space, and pure brilliant madness combine to make this the best Chrome album I have heard in years.
The opening “Nephilims (Help Me!)” sets the tone. The swirling organ and guitars are punctuated with the sound of smashing glass, while the voice of Helios Creed sails toward the great beyond. “Prophecy” is another monster, like the soundtrack to a ‘60s sci-fi flick that was too frightening to be released. The cut features Creed’s voice without the usual treatments, and it has aged like whiskey in a cracked barrel.
Because of the era in which the band was formed, Chrome is considered part of the late ‘70s Bay Area punk scene. While this is partially true, what it reminds me of the most is the early, Lemmy-era Hawkwind. “Cyberchondria” is a good example. The lengthy tune features an array of bizarre sounds underpinned by the rough garage rock of groups like The Seeds or The Count Five.
Creed’s vocals are those of a campy spook on “Captain Boson,” and for “Big Brats,” he gets his Cookie Monster on. The inclusion of “Big Brats” is a nice acknowledgement of the band’s long history, as it was written by the late Damon Edge, who founded Chrome in 1975. “Unbreakable Lithium” is science fiction gone awry, and combines an overwhelming feedback roar with the heaviest prog this side of Magma. The album closes with a short Tangerine Dream-like instrumental titled “Nymph Droid.” Although the “space rock” sound should be soothing, “Nymph Droid” is actually a little unnerving.
Being described as “unnerving” would probably suit the group just fine, though. For a band with a history as turbulent as Chrome‘s, it is a welcome event to hear the group still sounding so fresh and majestically strange today. Feel It Like a Scientist feels like classic Chrome.
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