Better late than never, Time To Go Home is a late entry for March’s albums list and is arguably one of the better albums from the month. Chastity Belt are a Seattle-based rock band that deal in the same sort of deadpan post-punk as label mates Protomartyr with a splash of Sleater-Kinney. So far, a volatile concoction. Post-punk has become something of a scarce breed recently, with most bands aping Interpol, who in turn ape Joy Division and this sort of baritone sadness has oversaturated whatever fun post-punk originally had in the first place. Post-punk’s never been especially happy, but the music of Chastity Belt certainly delivers a smooth sound with biting lyrics behind the winding guitars.
Julia Shapiro’s vocals and lyrics are one of the major selling points of the band. She slots into the Protomartyr school of deadpan vocals with often wordy stories to tell. In ‘Cool Slut’, Shapiro sings ‘So what? / We like to fuck’. Chastity Belt refuse to apologise for being who they are, following on from promotional shots of Shapiro wearing raw steak as a chastity belt. If Chastity Belt are making their enemies uncomfortable, then they are doing their job. On the other end of the spectrum, the poppiest track and most likeable is the title track. Depicting a night out on the town, Shapiro is backed by ghostly backing vocals. She sings ‘Wanting something that would cut deep / gonna have a meaningful night’. Before descending into the blissfully shambolic chorus.
The opening baseline of ‘Joke’ has more than a whiff of ‘The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac about it and if the topic of the song has anything to do with that, then it’s all the better for it. ‘Nothing’s serious / everything’s a joke’ then melting into the blissful chorus of ‘I feel better when I’m high / I’m gonna light you on fire’. Chastity Belt are by no means Mac Demarco, but they share the same sort of slacker-stoner vibes as everyone’s favourite goof at times. The latter half of ‘Joke’ is taken up by some surf-rock noodling that sounds like the band are jamming it out on some sun-kissed beach on the west coast. If the album has a ‘vibe’, it’s definitely a Jaws-esque beach scene which could go from beautiful to terrifying within seconds.
The instrumentation rarely varies from dreamy guitar lines and funky basslines. However, this never becomes repetitive and is still and fresh at the start of ‘Drone’ to the final notes of ‘Time To Go Home’. It’s amazing that a band can still keep their sound intact and not become a same-song-machine, though this is mostly due to the variation in Shapiro’s topics. They mostly tackle sexism, relationships and the truth and the lies. ‘On The Floor’, the longest track on the release at 6 minutes begins with a laidback surf-rock tune and Shapiro singing ‘I’m never satisfied / I keep feeding myself lies’ and then tumbling into a beautiful collection of repetitive guitars and sleepy drums. However, everything turns into a nightmare on ‘The Thing’, chock-full of distorted power chords and horror-rock riffs like something the Wytches would put together. Sharpino lets out a horrific scream and sings ‘Everyone is infected’. It’s a paranoid punk piece that throws the entire dreamy landscape of the rest of the album off, creating just enough unease to unhinge for the rest of the album.
For a band that once had songs such as ‘Giant Vagina’ and ‘Pussy Weed Beer’, Chastity Belt show no sign of losing their humour and transitioning to dream-post-punk. Sharpino is sharp and the instrumentation is simple but effective. A lot of post-punk gets caught up in the monochrome seriousness of sad men (The National, Interpol, Iceage), but Chastity Belt are a refreshing and fantastically female entry into what is a male-dominated genre. And when has a little bit of variety every hurt anyone?