Two Car Mirage
(Safety Net Records)
It is no secret that I usually do these things backwards, starting with third and second releases before tackling debuts. But there's a reason for that approach: I usually do it by matter of personal acquisition. Hence why I'll be starting with the Chant's sophomore effort, 1989's Two Car Mirage, which was I picked up on vinyl before any of the band's other releases. And while I can't say that I was there when these guys were kicking up their racket, I do know this: In about two weeks, they will be performing their first live show in 15 years at their beloved Star Bar in Atlanta. What a treat. Enjoy it, Georgia.
So how did I come about this little gem? Easy. One of the topics that crops up with frequency within this Blast From the Past column is how isolated South Florida has been when it comes to music, how the music scene usually becomes one out of necessity, how the main players were thoroughly involved in nurturing the homegrown talent and how interconnected everything really is once you sit back and look at the big picture.
This past February we discussed the punk rock gem that is The Essential's EP, Fast Music in a Slow Town and the handy-dandy guitar and vocal work of Walter "Cz" Czachowski in that outfit. Like many musicians who tenured in South Florida's punk rock scene, Walter moved on to the more rock and roll stylings of The Chant. Formed in 1984 and comprised (in this recording) by Walter Cz on vocals, guitars and mandolin, James "Bing" Johnson on vocals and bass, "Mighty" Joe Hamm on drums, Pat Johnson on guitar and Rich DeFinis on guitar, The Chant would enjoy local appeal before relocating to Atlanta and becoming a positive influence in Georgia's indie rock scene.
If I had to liken them to outfits you'd recognize, you'll definitely get the country-fried punk rock of Charlie Pickett thrown in there, the college sensibilities of early R.E.M., Uncle Tupelo and due to occurring in transitional flux of punkers going post-punk, I'd say there's a heavy dose of Hüsker Dü thrown in there for good measure. Think straight up rock and roll in the vein of early "alternative" rock with the pop of the Pixies but without their inner angst.
There's something spacey here too, psychedelic in ambience and primeval, something inherently honest and created under the bliss of South Florida's sun. But I better rein in on myself and get to the tracks. Opener "Wild Blue Yonder" gets the rock going with a straightforward jam, followed hot on the heels by "Chance." "I Don't Ask For Much" is where it really gets going (you can see the video for the track below, it was shot in Key Biscayne) and one can see Walter's solid range and inflection.
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"Clear Light Shuffle," "I'm Still Waiting" and "Coat O'Many Colors" keep the middle going and while you can put a time stamp on these tunes, they still hold their own against others who've tried. "7:20" gives it a little punch before we get the no-holds barred punk tune"Through My Eyes," which features some nice riffs and some of my favorite vocal treatments. It's one I play again and again, late at night, early in the morning; it just gets me going. "Get Along" and "Lubbock Lights" close the album up with some satisfying rock and roll, fully summing up all the adjectives I threw out a couple of paragraphs ago.
This album was produced by the band, John Keane and James Klotz. Bill Ashton served as executive producer and it was recorded in Atlanta's Channel One Studio. It was released by Safety Net Records and bears the cutter NET 12. It is also available in CD format and that CD also includes their debut album, 1985's Three Sheets to the Wind sans one track.
It is great (and timely!) to hear that they'll be hitting a stage soon. And on that note I've been thinking lately about a little comment on their website: "Inspired by the 60s, informed by the 70s, formed in the 80s and ignored in the 90s, dormant in the 00s, and back for the 10s" and wonder if this time people will notice. I hope so, this is good stuff.