Monsters of Rock: Chad VanGaalen

If you’ve only heard “Flower Gardens,” (mp3 – right-click, save-as) you’re missing out, big time. Only Sub Pop (and Chad VanGaalen himself, perhaps?) can tell you why it’s the single, but as if I haven’t posted on the dude enough…

Chad VanGaalen – “Dead Ends”: mp3

The juxtapositions of this song – from the candy-sweet melody to the acidic lyrics and looming guitar thumps – exemplify everything that’s great about the songwriter/recordist. VanGaalen can take the saddest, most serious line – but one that’s inherently ridiculous (“broken hearts last for a million years”) – and place it in a context that simultaneously supports it and tears it down. When he goes into the big breakdown, his voice out of control and the guitars even more so, any other musician doing the same thing would sound ridiculous – or worse, emo. But Chad pulls it off: “Here we are again, like two best friends / but I will not sail on through the sea / on a sinking ship that is bound for the bottom.” Here, the Weezer-esque “Ooh-ooh-ooh!” segment after the big conclusion isn’t ironic, but we’re not sure if it’s homage, knowing wink, or genuine catharsis. It’s nigh impossible to tell for certain with this music, and that’s what makes it so fascinating.

(Buy Skelliconnection from Sub Pop Records)

If you’d like to read a much better rock writer’s opinion about a far more indiscernable album by a much older Van, here’s a typically excellent piece by one Lester Bangs on Astral Weeks.