Album Reviews

Chastity Belt – Live Laugh Love

(Suicide Squeeze) UK release date: 29 March 2024

The Seattle quartet’s calm, relatively unmannered delivery is a way into what is in reality a deeply felt fourth album

Chastity Belt - Live Laugh Love Humour and irony have always played a big part in Chastity Belt’s music, but with Live Laugh Love there are signs that the band are giving us greater access to their real, authentic selves. Now on to their fourth album, the Seattle quartet have produced a record where they all share vocals, and where the calm, relatively unmannered delivery is a way into what is in reality a deeply felt album.

The music unfolds at a natural, slowish pace, over which the lyrical insights can be easily heard, revealing one of the strongest elements of their songwriting. Chemtrails is a prime example, its chorus confessing, “Someone like me can’t let go of anything, moments move like chemtrails in my mind. Now I want more thinking I deserve less, maybe I’ll be happier this time.”

Pensive lyrics, maybe, but delivered with a light touch, as the humour still hovers close to the surface. Funny is a harmonious gem with a lovely, airy guitar sound – not a laugh-out-loud song but certainly one to induce a smile. With Clumsy we experience more of that refreshing lyrical directness as vocalist Julia Shapiro picks apart a relationship. “You were clumsy with your heart…it was doomed right from the start”, she sings.

There are some lovely layers of harmony towards the end of Tethered, the band completely in sync – and the subtle counterpoint on the likes of Hollow explores melodies that seem inoffensive to begin with, but on repeated listening work their way into your brain. This is another revealing example of how Chastity Belt reel their listeners in, tackling the phenomenon of ageing but in the manner of acceptance. Shapiro decides that “to fit in, I will sit still with my doubt”. It’s Cool explores more of that acceptance, both lyrically and musically, while Laugh builds up to a meaningful coda, its bright guitar line countering a softly cooed melody that reeks of fresh nostalgia.

Just when you think the group are focussing inwards on the mind, we come to the deeply evocative I-90 Bridge, a vivid account of a fictional bike ride across the floating structure in Seattle sung by guitarist Lydia Lund. Its silvery textures are the perfect foil for the subtly moving story.

Live Laugh Love is a deceptive album. On first listen it feels understated, the low-slung rhythms an easy listen with many melodic and textural high points. Yet as you spend more time with them the frank admissions of the band take on a reassuring quality, sharing our own highs and lows with everyday life and offering a calmly assertive way of dealing with them.

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Chastity Belt – Live Laugh Love