CHEVELLE “WELL ENOUGH ALONE” — advance single review
It’s been a difficult past two years for Chevelle, but the Chicago-based band of brothers Pete, Sam and Joe Loeffler got off to a fast enough start. After releasing a Steve Albini produced affair in 1999 on the independent Squint records, they were quickly scooped up by Epic. Their wildly successful major-label debut Wonder What’s Next dropped in 2002, generating massive radio airplay, sparking a #1 hit with “Send the Pain Below,” and scoring the band a slot on the main stage at Ozzfest 2002. 2004’s This Kind of Thinking (Could Do Us In) continued the band’s joyride, with “Vitamin R” and “The Clincher” again lighting up phones at active rock and modern rock radio stations. In 2005 things took a turn for the unexpected when brothers Pete and Sam fired bass player and youngest brother Joe mid-tour, citing his distaste for the lifestyle of the road. Since then it’s been an uphill battle, but the boys are back with their first single “Well Enough Alone” from the upcoming album Vena Sera to be released April 3.
Wonder What’s Next, which catapulted the band into the mainstream, was an interesting album in that it wasn’t spectacular by any means, but it certainly showed promise. Lead single “The Red” piqued my interest enough to buy the album for $9.99 at Tower (RIP). Upon listening to the whole disc, I was slightly let down; the band seemed to combine elements of several then-popular brooding alt-metal bands (Tool, Staind, etc) but relied too heavily on these bands’ formulas and sounds. “Send the Pain Below” was another great track that’s still a good listen to this day, but unfortunately the album cuts just didn’t do much for me. While there was nothing wrong or bad about the disc, there was just nothing that set it apart from the burgeoning crop of modern rock bands at the time. Still, there was an inkling of something cool that made you think maybe the next time around these guys could step it up.
I didn’t buy 2004’s This Kind of Thinking (Could Do Us In) due more to laziness than anything else. Radio lead-single “Vitamin R” again delivered a heavy song with a great hook. “The Clincher” really sold me, though, incorporating a heavy down-tuned guitar riff into Chevelle’s soft-loud-soft dynamic and equally diverse vocal stylings. At this point I felt that Chevelle’s sound had begun to develop away from the borrowing of others into what could only be described as their own sound; the band sounded only like Chevelle. With this in mind, I listened to their new single “Well Enough Alone” posted on their website on January 29. With brother Joe out of the picture, Dean Bernardini has taken his place. The songwriting picture shouldn’t change much, as singer/guitarist Pete handles all of these duties. On the other hand, the family dynamic has now got to be indescribably complicated; Pete commented in a recent press release, “Thanksgivings will still be really awkward.” Bernardini stepping into a brothers’ club should be equally awkward.
Unfortunately I feel a little let down by this latest offering. Nothing is terribly wrong with this track; it’s just that, again, it doesn’t stand apart much from other bands in this genre (see Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Finger Eleven, Cold, etc). The song combines heavily distorted guitars, with, as usual, the loud-soft-loud dynamic underneath Pete Loeffler’s Maynard-esque vocals. On the plus side, there are some tidy three-part harmonies on top of a catchy (but unspectacularly so) two-chord chorus. If history repeats itself, I’m hoping the second single will be better; “Send the Pain Below” and “The Clincher” were both second singles that outdid and outperformed their predecessors. Nevertheless, I’m just not sure that Chevelle will ever rise above alt-metal mediocrity, able to deliver some consistently palatable songs but not much more.