First Look: Chapman & Brocker – “Dance Of The Crazy Man”

Editor’s note: I promised this band in 2008 I was going to write about this album and got 90% through this review and never posted it, so here it is now with just a touch of polish.

Every day is Thanksgiving in a music blogger’s inbox — at least as far as how full it gets. But as I’ve noted before, bands who send out their own stuff tend to be a cut above those discovered in corporate e-mails, and I do my best to make time for them. Chapman & Brocker are the latest revelatory act to arrive in my ears this way, and their Dance of the Crazy Man is a debut that by all rights should be sending many a Gmail account reeling.

High praise, I know. But in(box) jokes aside, Dance is a fresh take on the druggy, dreamy pop established by acts like the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev a decade ago. (Editor’s note: …two decades ago. Awesome.)

The vocals, double-tracked and unaffected, haunt the album like the ghost of Brian Wilson. With its piano bedding and playful ornamentation—horns, a xylophone, keyboard strings, perhaps a mandolin—”Waltz Or Wisdom” is a chilly channeling of the Beach Boys. The Lips’ unfettered silliness aside, this kind of material often fares better when it skews serious, and Chapman & Brocker are at their best on songs such as “Lost Boys of Saint Bollettieri,” an acoustic-driven ballad about the inner angst of young tennis players which I have absolutely listened to 100 times.

It makes for a colorful but gloomy album—a carnivalesque banquet that betters 2008 contemporaries such as Roommate and Surrounded in building a surreal pop swirl.