MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2012 |
Posted by: Andrew Gruttadaro
The story of Chester French is an unexpected one. After finishing their demo while stilled enrolled at Harvard University, the duo of D.A. Wallach and Maxwell Drummey sent it to various labels, garnering significant interest, but mostly among the hip-hop community. A bidding war for the rights to their debut album broke out between hip-hop labels run by Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and Jermaine Dupri (Pharrell won). Which is a little surprising because Chester French is not a hip-hop group. Their debut Love the Future, was an upbeat rock album with 60s tints and smart lyrics. Nonetheless, Chester French has been aligned with the hip-hop community, not the indie rock community, since their inception.
This affiliation has slowly been making its way into their music and their choices as a band, seen first on their 2009 release ,Jacques Jams Vol. 1: Endurance, a party rock mixtape that featured the likes of Pusha T, Talib Kweli, and Jadakiss. So their second full-length album could have gone one of two ways: it could have continued down the path of hip-hop infused party rock, or it could have re-adopted the classic arrangements of their first album.
A couple things give away which route they chose. First of all, the album is called Music 4 Tngrs, presumably meaning "teenagers." And secondly, the album's lead track, "Next Big Thing," features Pharrell and Pusha T. So to be clear, this album is full on party rock. And as far as making an album with immense production, huge hooks, and just a ton of noise, Music 4 Tngrs succeeds. Each song, save for the last one, is in your face in every way -- overpowering guitars, amplified vocals, club effects. It's an aural onslaught.
But even considering the album's brassy personality, D.A. Wallach's wryness and wit are still apparent. The album's lead single, "Black Girls," is funny in its bluntness and the way that it addresses the stigma of interracial relationships. Some people might be pissed off about it, but with lines like, "I've been to England a few times/And it's common over there/Plus the whole world's turning brown and who cares," I don't think Chester French is trying to appease those people. They don't take themselves too seriously -- case and point: "Drop" -- and don't expect you to either.
Music 4 Tngrs might not be what traditional Chester French fans (whoever they are) were hoping for. But they can't be blamed for being influenced by the only community that accepted them. And they can't be faulted for not giving 100% -- nothing on this album sounds half-assed, however misguided that full-bore mentality may be. And to be honest, Chester French immediately announces that this album isn't for everyone. It's "4 Tngrs," so be forewarned.