Feel It Like A Scientist - Chrome (King of Spades)
When Big Black toured UK in 1987, playing their last gig in Europe, they had a few members of Wire come up on stage. Afterwards, having played with his heroes, Steve Albini commented: "Tonight we’ve walked with giants."
Wire are giants in a world of pygmy bands. Chrome are legends among giants.
When The Mark Of Cain saw Big Black at the Adelaide Uni Bar, they realised, I think, a path they could take. After all, Big Black were about to break up. Before the gig I interviewed Steve Albini and … yes, we discussed Chrome, with whom he was very familiar.
To cut Chrome’s history short: band forms. Recruits ace, innovative guitarist. LP recorded, gains attention, little else. Other members leave.
Two men standing. Chrome. Both equi-creative. They’re a gang of two. Lost in themselves. Their view on the world around them is unique. Release lps while the underground of the underground watch … taking notes and recording.
Chrome split, the founding man releasing Chrome and his own recordings as one.
The other man works alone. Doesn’t abuse the name. His own work has a maturity and balance.
The two finally talk. We should put Chrome back together.
It doesn’t happen. The founder, Damon Edge, dies, far too young.
The other man, Helios Creed, realises he can perform Chrome, and record as Chrome - but as a separate mind-set as his records as himself - with very, very special people. Chrome is an inescapable creation.
Like the alien, the ghost in the machine, Latin in the language, Chrome just won’t die.
This is the fifth new Chrome LP. It ain’t a Creed LP - even though Creed lps are good enough to eat. Feel it Like a Scientist is a cracker.
The attention in Europe for Chrome’s lost LP, "Half Machine from the Sun", forced Creed to scramble to put together a tour. Doing it hard. No major label support, despite the likes of NIN, Butthole Surfers, Ministry, Jesus Lizard, Big Black, Skinny Puppy all being huge influences everywhere - remember that amazing Japanese underground explosion in the 9ts which still hasn’t finished? Yeah, they all counted Chrome among their influences too. As ever, the gurus get it wrong.
Chrome is one of the most important '70s/early '80s bands. Each original Chrome LP was like entering a strange new place, often via a surprising portal. Every time we’d be lugged across time, space, mentality. Have to rearrange what’s possible, what perspectives we carry.
Creed’s take on Chrome is interesting, because you can still feel Damon Edge’s touch in there. It’s not just Creed. It’s like there’s still that push-me-pull-you subtle dance going on. That strange marriage which shouldn’t work but impossibly does, each and every song; they were perfectly on the same page for so long, but if one was Victor Hugo, the other was an alchemist’s manual. There’s an indefinable aspect to Chrome’s work - it shouldn’t work, but it does.
Over the years Creed has fine-honed many of his concerns, whittled them into a more precise form. But here’s the rub - it never sounds like he’s cruising or coasting. Certainly without Edge’s input Chrome are a different animal than they were, but since there is no actual evidence that a newer version of Chrome with Edge would have actually worked, I’d say the tracks on "Feel it Like a Scientist" are as close as we could ever get to a new Edge/Creed Chrome lp.
So. Are there any surprises? Plenty. One of the best things about not just this Chrome record, but all of Creed's work, is that it's still modern today, so any tour you see isn't a bunch of wheezy gits effectively retreading their hits to a crowd of nostalgic twonks. Chrome's current tour is the real deal, the sound is killer, the delivery is as crushing and unique and mesmerising and bewildering as ever, new or old songs don't matter. They rush together like long-separated lovers.
Nephilims (Help Me!)
Ten seconds in and you’re dancing. Backward hissing vocals wrestle with the main vocal, dodge the extraordinary twin guitar assault. There’s a brutal humour. Like med students joking about tumours, rubbing it in our face. There’s a drifting savagery here, you’re dragged into a maelstrom far more real than Morrison’s. There’s so much going on here, so much orchestrated chaos. Welcome back Chrome.
This is the single. And it takes off like you wouldn’t believe. Long slow monstrous introduction, demons playing in traffic, and then…well, fuck that vocal drags these bleeding slabs of guitar along. If the real world were real then MTV would come a-knocking, awed and acrying. I’ve been to too many festivals, seen too much ordinary posturing on the big stage. Chrome slay you.
Loping, bestial, seductive, beautiful. I don’t know what Helios does to his guitar and vocal but it’s hypnotic to say the least. Most bands use this sort of thing as a gimmick, a cute sound. For Chrome, it is the sound. It’s the starting point.
Another of those kick-you-in-the-head dance-or-die anthems Chrome seem to specialise in. Again, there’s just so much going on here you can hear the - hang on, just what is that anyway?
Something in the Cloud
Air of helplessness pervades this one, sad. Definitely the most Edge-like of the songs so far, it may as well be a memorial.
Burns like napalm. Just to achieve the main grinding platform would be enough for most bands, to layer all this other wistful, scalpel-like guitar and sonics on top of lyrics you’d cry to write… Jesus. My first thought is if there were rock justice the band could fucking retire on this one. The outro is unsettling if not damn terrifying.
No, I’m stopping there. The rest of the LP is just as brilliant, always filled with double-u turns, unexpected plunges into the unknown. And trust me, you can’t second-guess Chrome - take the titles "Captain Boson", "Brady the Chicken Boy" and "Slave Planet Institution". Or "Cyberchondria" and "Himalayanelimination". Or "Nymph Droid".
So Chrome ain’t for everyone. But if you ever enjoyed rock with a purpose, ever enjoyed the twin diametrically opposed crunch of guitars, ever loved how some bands can stop, turn on a dime and ram something like a hot screwdriver into your skull you’re gonna love Feel it Like a Scientist. If you’re not excited by now you never will be and I don't know why you've bothered to read so far down the page when you obviously don't love modern music.
The vinyl hasn’t made it to the shops yet. You need this in your ears, in your gut, in your cells, parasites and in your fucking dna.