Chat Pile: God's Country Album Review

Chat Pile: God’s Country Album Review

Even as an instrumental trio, Chat Pile would absolutely slay. But Busch tips them into true greatness. He’s got it all: presence, personality, and the storytelling abilities of a seasoned horror director. Start with his arresting voice from him, which might mimic the authoritative bark of a cop with a grudge or the withered mewl of a basement-dwelling troll, eliciting not just discomfort but something approaching physical disgust. When he screams, which is often, it’s not just figuratively blood-curdling, it sounds literally curdled, like little globs of matter were detaching from the walls of his throat from him, gumming up the vowels as they tumbled out. When he expresses vulnerability, he has a tremulous, sputtering tone somewhere between Bobcat Goldthwait and Barney Gumble on a three-day bender; it’s the sound of a man unraveling from inside.

While there are topical themes in their music—“Slaughterhouse” exposes the brutality of industrialized meat production, and “Why” is a desperate plea of ​​sympathy for the unhoused—Chat Pile aren’t so much a political band as they are dystopian impressionists. “More than anything, we’re trying to capture the anxiety and fear of seeing the world fall apart,” says Stin. True to form, in song after song, Busch displays the awful magnetism of a street-corner ranter in a sandwich board. His subject matter of him can be chilling: In “Anywhere,” a gunshot rips through a moment of tranquility, leaving blood on the narrator’s face, brains on his shoes of him; in “Pamela,” a man seems to confess to drowning his son to get back at his wife. Seething like one of Henry Rollins’ angriest missives, “Tropical Beaches, Inc.” might be a businessman’s explosion of self-loathing. But the exact outlines of the songs’ narratives are rarely clear. Both captivated and repelled by Busch’s antiheroes, our sympathies drift uneasily across the rutted surface of the music, trying and failing to find a solid moral purchase.

What’s scariest is the path these songs travel as they return from garden-variety societal ills into a kind of free-associative chaos. “Wicked Puppet Dance” starts out like a cautionary tale about intravenous drugs, but by the second verse the paranoid narrator is meting out murder and arson, while the inscrutable chorus simply reels off a list of charged monosyllables, insistent as Nitzer Ebb and dripping with portent: “God’s/Eyes/Taste/Lips/Red/Phos/Death/Cum.” Likewise, “The Mask” begins as a short story told from the perspective of an armed robber, yet by the end, his howls are an inventory of “broken faces…/And jamming fingers/And goddamn dust in my eyes for the rest of my life,” a litany unintelligible to anyone not living in his own tortured mind. Even the closing “Grimace_Smoking_Weed.jpeg”—a nine-minute juggernaut about a guy so high he hallucinates the McDonald’s mascot in his bedroom—isn’t quite the lighthearted cannabis gag it might seem to be; deep down, it’s a harrowing existential nightmare, like a stoner-metal update of Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized,” toxic metals pooling at the bottom of his Pepsi.

Songwriting from the villain’s perspective is nothing new—see hardcore, see country, see narcocorridos. To Chat Pile’s credit, even their most unsettling songs never feel exploitative. As slippery as their songwriting can be, there is no doubting the band’s ethical compass. The question at the heart of “Why” (“Why do people have to live outside?”) is an unequivocal indication of a system that relegates people to homelessness. The refrain of the dirge-like “Anywhere” (“It’s the sound of a fuckin’ gun/It’s the sound of your world collapsing”) ought to be looped at punishing volume outside NRA headquarters. Still, the question remains: Why would anyone want to listen to someone singing from the perspective of a child killer? Perhaps for the simplest of reasons: Because they are there. Chat Pile aren’t asking us to relate to these depraved characters, they are showing them to us because they are symptoms of a deeper rot.

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Chat Pile: God’s Country

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