Black Box Broken

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It's hard to find a starting point when describing Chalk, mainly because you can never figure out precisely where the band found its own starting point. When artists amalgamate, there's usually a frame of reference, an underlying or overwhelming sound or ethos or punctuation mark that allows the listener to have a decent idea as to what influences jump-started the band's members to do what they do, and you just can't find anything to latch onto as the origins of this species. So, start at the end and work backwards: The end result of the sophomore disc sees the Cincinnati troupe resembling a postmodern day Chrome, with the way the trio perfectly mixes man and machine, brains and brawn, dance and thrash. Some moments sound like the Pixies gone existentially electronic, whether the band is aping the quirky side of the influential band, such as on the Floyd-ian "Bind," or more straightforward angular post-punk, best heard on the infectious, bass-heavy "Crybaby King." But that's just part of Chalk's sound through a total of 14 songs that all manage to sound quite different from each other, while still pretty obviously seeming to be from the same band. "Eyelid" is Sonic Youth noise smashing into gothic moodiness, "I Saw It Coming" is Devo on steroids, and "Panopticon" is cheesy '80s new wave synthesizers gone simultaneously glitter and prog rock. Which leads one to the (probable) initial influences of the group: Black Box Broken can best be summed up as prog rock geekiness made by and for indie rock geeks, but lacking the pretension and inconsistency of Radiohead -- a statement so good, one wonders how it's stayed such a secret.

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