The Chap

Well Done Europe

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Somehow, the Chap managed to write a set of songs even more satirical and mannered than Mega Breakfast’s proper songs about girls and clubbing. Well Done Europe is also more playful and quite a bit more cohesive musically, trading Breakfast’s eclectic bombast for clean, ultra-stylized electronic pop. This focus allows the band to be even more meta than usual, taking aim at favorite targets like fragile egos, pop music tropes, and themselves. They’re past masters at arch disdain: “We’ll See to Your Breakdown” opens the album with cheery threats that wither the surrounding music into glitchy chaos, while “Well Done You” twists the knife with lyrics like “That was quite a feat … considering.” The Chap embraces and subverts musical clichés especially well on Well Done Europe, allowing them to have their hooks and deconstruct them, too. “Even Your Friend” is one of the album’s big (anti-) pop moments, with huge choruses about summertime love that, despite the church bells and “oh yeah!” backing vocals, sound pretty far from romantic or summery. “Unusual But Nice” is quiet storm the Chap’s way, and “Torpor” -- one of the album’s few rock moments -- namedrops Hall & Oates and “Elvis Rex” over jagged new wave. Of course, one of Well Done Europe’s best songs is about the band itself. The simultaneously self-deprecating and self-aggrandizing “Nevertheless, the Chap” is this album’s answer to Mega Breakfast’s “Ethnic Instrument,” so cheeky and referential that it’s a wonder that the song’s “critical beats” are as infectious as they are. But even though nearly everything the Chap does is couched in quotation marks, a pensive undercurrent pops up now and then -- not enough to stop the band’s wit, but just enough to add a wry twist. “Obviously” debates whether or not there is a god, and though it name-checks prominent atheist Richard Dawkins, the layers of vocals asking “is anybody still out there?” make the answer poignantly unclear. As usual, the band’s music is fascinating above and beyond the humor. Their sounds save them when the words get too elliptical, as on “Gimme Legs”’ wobbly surf-pop or “Pain Fan”’s dance between shiny rock and electronic chamber pop. The album also features some of the band’s most musically daring moves, such as “Few Horoscope”’s flirtation with Balearic chillout. Typical of the Chap, Well Done Europe is filled with quirks, and not just obvious ones; it’s more cohesive, yet somehow less immediate, than Mega Breakfast was. Nevertheless, you can hear the gears turning in their music, and these songs offer more wit and musical surprises with each listen.

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