London five-piece Chemtrails mix elements of garage, punk, and psychedelic rock on their first full-length, Calf of the Sacred Cow. Their third official release in less than eighteen months, Chemtrails’ new album collects eleven songs that find romantic partners/bandmates Mia Lust and Laura Orlova and company reveling in their underdogness and doling out one delightfully eccentric, upbeat rocker after another.
Every song on Calf of the Sacred Cow is well-written and follows a traditional rock and roll structure, what ultimately sets the band’s sound apart is the record’s lo-fi production in conjunction with the group’s idiosyncratic execution. Mia Lust’s androgynous-sounding vocals and unconventional lyrics have the listener imagining the frontwoman proudly holding a participation trophy over her head with both hands as she confidently struts down a catwalk of shame, one littered with broken beer bottles, hypodermic needles, and cigarette butts.
“I never could commit to heroin, I never found something I could be the hero in,” Lust laments over sympathetic oohs and ahs on the album’s opener, “A Killer or a Punchline”. The driving “A Beautiful Cog in the Monolithic Death Machine” races along nicely with a rockabilly guitar and a slick solo two thirds in. With only the slightest deviations in style and tempo from track to track, Chemtrails smartly manage to hang something unique and snazzy on each of the first four numbers to distinguish them.
It isn’t until the record’s halfway point is reached with “Lizard Empire” that a surprise genre shift is tossed in. “What did I do to deserve this curse? I promise I’m trying my best to do worse,” Mia Sings during the chorus to this shit-kicking, hillbilly-hugging country song. Things pick back up on the album’s second half beginning with the fuzzed-out pop gem “Watch Evil Grow”. Chemtrails throw another curveball at the listener with “Milked”, a drum machine-driven, psych-inspired moment that finds Laura Orlova handling lead vocals during the verses with Lust jumping in on the choruses.
Calf of the Sacred Cow’s penultimate track, “Ghosts of My Dead Cats”, is comparatively cheery, offering a playful synth hook that falls into glittery washes during the choruses. “Overgrown” is the record’s final moment and feels like you’re watching the band sadly waving goodbye after a fun night of friends and music. While Chemtrails’ primitive production techniques won’t be for everyone, the band’s wonderfully original root-for-the-dark-horse lyrics and solid composition work is undeniable. Anyone who’s ever had an I’m-right-it’s-the-rest-of-the-world-that’s-wrong moment will find Calf of the Sacred Cow easy to embrace.