So, here’s a funny music fact that you may or may not know. The term “shoegazing” was coined by the British media in the late 1980s, who would make fun of bands who were so obsessed with their effect pedals that they had no stage presence whatsoever. The reason I mention this is because Chuter’s Pendulum Swing is clearly a love letter to these musicians BUT with one exception; there is lively energy threatening to seep its way through. Even though the words are near impossible to make out, there is an emotionality that is slightly more obvious than your average “shoegaze” copycat. To put it simply, if you’re to ever witness Chuter live, I doubt it would look like he was looking at his fucking shoes.
One further thing to know about Chuter is that the act is mysterious as hell; no Facebook, no Instagram and no Twitter. The only thing I know is that the entire operation solely exists on Bandcamp and is masterminded by one strangely happy looking Brit named Jack Chuter. Even weirder is that he has written and recorded seventeen releases in the past ten years and I get the sense he doesn’t care who’s listening. This is a damn shame because Pendulum Swing is an exceptionally produced EP and a faithful “shoegaze” record. Every song is relentlessly hypnotic, boasting slyly catchy vocal hooks and drenched in every effect you could possibly imagine. Again, though, what makes these songs not 100% part of this sub-genre is the sense that the usual detachment and apathy is merely a front.
“Whim,” for example, is a gorgeous opening track that is buoyed by a simple, bouncy, and repetitious synth line that gave me absolute chills when I first heard it. There is a stoic nature to the vocal performance courtesy of Chuter and guest vocalist Lizzy Maries, but there is a sense of joy bubbling too. Although the lyrics are tough to decipher, don’t doubt for a second that you will feel something. It could mean anything, but it gives me feelings of anxiousness and excitement that comes with taking a big step in life. That moment where you can’t wait any longer but you’re also scared shitless and are trying to play it cool. The emotional intent in A LOT of “shoegaze” songs is extremely subtle. Not so with most of the songs on here yet they aren’t mawkish either.
Even though the opener slightly eclipses everything else, there isn’t a duffer in the lot. Chuter delivers a wistful, melancholic, and slightly dramatic melody that is matched by an aggressive alt-rock riff on “Shapeshift,” while “Burn The Object Down” has the opposite effect. Chuter sounds downright numb with depression or boredom but the song’s persistent dance groove will get you up and moving before reaching for that next Prozac. The only track that doesn’t quite meet standards is “Point On The Scale.” It doesn’t suck by any means. It’s just more “conventional” and is the only track that you could accuse of being derivative.
If you’re already a fan of shoegaze than I recommend you check this out. Even if you don’t then I’d still recommend it because it could be an effective gateway into the sub-genre. No, these aren’t heart-on-your-sleeve anthems, but there is still something uplifting about them all the same. Sometimes in life, you need a little nudge. An EP like Pendulum Swing could be the difference between a day in bed or a gig where you face the crowd and smile.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy