CD REVIEW: Uncle Chunk – Social Studies

Uncle Chunk are the kind of band that the word ‘eclectic’ was invented for. Their music – hitherto contained on four EPs – is a bubbling concoction of modern metal and alternative rock. But not Alternative Rock as a genre, with capital letters. We’re talking about alternative rock as a manifesto. Syncopated rhythms, off-kilter melodies and unpredictable guitar lines bounce about hither and yon. Finally, after a gestational period that makes elephant pregnancies look downright speedy in comparison, Uncle Chunk has released Social Studies, their debut full length.

Opening with a reverberous, tribal percussionfest, Social Studies gets going with “Natalie,” part Meshuggah, part King For A Day era Faith No More, part spacey semi-psychedelia, it’ll give you an idea of the Chunk sound, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. “Dragon Eyes” reveals a little more, with effected clean guitars crashing against a lumbering distorted chorus and ultimately a crazed wah wah solo courtesy of guitarist/vocalist Mike Chunk. “In The Dark” adds a bit of swing to the equation alongside some cool ringing guitars and a cool stop-start verse groove. “Huggermugger” feels like a real centrepiece, with an odd time feel that would be right at home in the hands of Dream Theater or Tool, and a loud/quiet/loud dynamic that again recalls FNM at their angriest. “Carcass” begins with cleaner guitars and a slightly jazzy mood, and it’s pretty much the only way the band can go after “Huggermugger.” The tasty clean wah work eventually gives way to “Soldier On,” a much angrier, chunkier work which leads to “Mother’s Son,” more syncopated groovy heavy rock with a touch of funk. “My Mind” further explores this territory, while “In A Lifetime” closes the album with more of the clean spaciousness rather than the hyperactive energy that dominates much of the album.

Drummer Marc Chunk plays with lots of dynamics and energy, with what feels like an eerily natural knack for knowing exactly how hard to hit, when to hang back, when to drag the beat and when to sit right on top of it, while bassist Robo Chunk is a solid, creative player who hangs back maybe a little more here than he needs to – if you’ve seen him play live you’d know what a beast he can be, especially with a six-string bass in his hands. Mike Chunk’s guitar work covers a lot of ground, and he seems really at home at the unnatural syncopated rhythms that drive much of the material.

The production is a cool mix of ambience and punch, with plenty of depth and space. The harmonized vocals that punctuate much of the album are also a big part of the overall feel of the album. Uncle Chunk as a live band are pretty damn impressive. Their energy and antics make for a great show. But the recorded version of their sound offers a slightly different side, energetic and in a different way, with greater emphasis on the nuances.

Uncle Chunk is streaming 80% of Social Studies via their website, but it’s also available for paid download with bonus content, lyrics, pics and the entire 4-EP discography included. Check it out at unclechunk.net.

A little video from my band rehearsal on the weekend (updated with video that, y’know, WORKS).

As you may remember from a post a few weeks ago, my band The Upperhand is getting back together for a show at the legendarily historic Espy here in Melbourne on September 2. Want a little peek into rehearsals? Here’s “MILF”.

And here’s the press release for the gig:

Things have been quiet in Upperhand land for a while – a little too quiet – but the silence is about to end: after a “gee-has-it-really-been-fo​ur-years” hiatus, they’re back! The classic Upperhand core band of Dima Shafro, Rohan Drew and Peter Harris, plus later addition Peter Hodgson, will reunite in September to once again rock the Espy in St Kilda.

A little older, slightly wiser, and four years better at Mario Kart, The Upperhand will collectively steel themselves, march steadfastly into the isolated cave where all their songs are kept, and emerge bloody and bruised but with their fists stuffed full of classic tracks from throughout their career to play for the sweaty Espy crowd, from older favourites (“MILF,” “Hillside”) to later tracks (“Move On”). Some are danceable, some are headbangable. You’ll have fun.

It’s been a long time between drinks. Come join us for another round.

The Upperhand plays the Gershwin Room, Esplanade Hotel, 11 The Esplanade, St Kilda on Friday, September 2 with The Furniture Incident, Sleepa, Get to the Chopper and Crying Sirens, pre-sale tickets are $10.

The Upperhand is:
DIMA SHAFRO – Vocals
ROHAN DREW – Bass
PETER HARRIS – Drums
PETER HODGSON – Guitar

LINK: The Upperhand on Facebook