The Chap

We Are Nobody

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    8
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Upon We Are Nobody's release, the Chap claimed it was the group's first entirely irony-free album -- something that was hard to believe, given the band's reputation as dyed-in-the-wool mischief makers. However, the opening track "Rhythm King" confirms that for this album, the British/German outfit is as straightforward as it can possibly be, crafting pop songs with all the right parts in all the right places. While We Are Nobody finds the Chap in a considerably less whimsical mood than usual, the group's clever observations and skeptical, skewed outlook on life and music are still here, and being a little less silly allows them to focus on other aspects of their sound. The album's instrumentation is a little calmer than before, with a focus on cunningly layered vocal arrangements that are especially effective on "Curtains"' Krautrock-inspired groove. However, the most striking thing about We Are Nobody is its deep melancholy. Searching for meaning and coming up empty is one of the album's major themes, along with death, anonymity, futility. It's particularly apt that We Are Nobody follows the boastfully titled career retrospective We Are the Best, since a self-deprecating streak runs through songs like "What Did We Do," on which Johannes Von Weizs├Ącker sighs, "cowards write songs and never do what needs to be done" and "Running with Me," where he laments that he's not "memorable enough to be a memory." Similarly, the album's preoccupation with identity, or lack thereof -- which comes to a head on "Talk Back" and the title track -- seems all the more fitting since the Chap leave one of their music's main traits behind on these songs. The overall effect recalls the way Metronomy sobered up on their album The English Riviera, though the Chap remain far more detached than that band. Despite We Are Nobody's existential angst, these aren't overly sentimental songs; in many ways, the band still feel a bit like alien observers making music that approximates what they saw and heard on Earth. However, they do have a close brush with intimacy on the last two songs: "Look at the Girl" subverts expectations, turning what sounds like an idealized reverie into anything but, while "This Is Sick" is the Chap's version of an honest-to-goodness love song (albeit with the lyrics "I fell from grace/I fell from a great height for you"). While their detachment makes the Chap a unique group and perhaps something of an acquired taste, We Are Nobody delivers some of their finest songs yet, and should show anyone who thought they could only do songs like "Ethnic Instrument" that they're capable of much more.

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