Despite sounding like an annual contest that would until recently have been a two-horse race between Sir Bruce Forsyth and the late ex-Match Of The Day presenter Jimmy Hill, Chin Of Britain is actually a music project belonging to multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Chin Keeler, first seen in 2013 via Keeler’s debut solo album named inventively as Chin Keeler.
The Weasel Is At The Bridge is possibly only the second album in history to namecheck the furry carnivorous mammal of the genus Mustela, unless there have been some lesser known offerings since the pesky-yet-cute looking cousins of the often ‘down-trouser’ shoved ferrets (AKA ferret-legging) ripped Frank Zappa’s flesh, the razor-toothed demons.
Billed as expanding on “themes of the unconscious” present on the debut, the album is apparently based around a story where a weasel is at a bridge and wanting to reach the other side without becoming a meaty snack for the evil Mr Owl, who is perched above waiting to pounce. A stalemate occurs because poor old weasel chops knows owl is watching, and poor old Owlie can’t risk abandoning his stakeout to go searching for alternative foodstuffs in case there aren’t any alternative foodstuffs. Or perhaps it’s all just an analogy for relationship issues, who knows.
Still with us? Right, enough of the arty philosophising bollocks. Musically, The Weasel Is At The Bridge is brimming with quality.
Last year, Gary McClure’s solo project American Wrestlers dazzled with its lo-fi structure amid his ability to play and produce everything, effectively chucking out an album from start to finish single-handedly, and Keeler does the same here. Sharing a similar lo-fi recording process (although, admittedly, American Wrestlers did push this approach to its boundaries), there’s a heavier fuzziness to Keeler’s output that draws you in.
Keeler may be a jack of all trades but he is clearly a master of guitar and it shows throughout. All over the album there are addictive guitar passages, but the soundscape concentrates fairly evenly with a fairly thick brush of distortion. Opener and single Last Seen Alive is a choppy effort that would probably sound a bit like what you’d imagine an updated Kula Shaker to sound like if they’d disappeared after releasing K in 1996 (you mean they didn’t, you cry?).
Feel It pushes the guitar distortion levels a little further, with a decent melody and Keeler’s drumming skills being on show more prominently whilst Maxïmo Park like guitars open Going Down, another enthralling cut again driven by guitars alongside Keeler’s soft, unobtrusive vocals, with the warm, repeated three-chord outro providing a nice canvas for Keeler’s closing axe abilities.
The rapid, clanky guitars of Don’t Make A Sound go against the song title considerably (presumably old Mr Weasel is in ninja-like sneak mode at this point, but he needs to quieten it down a bit or he’s history). The pleasantly jolly opening to Physiology portrays an image of optimism and the long, spacey blip and bleep peppered instrumental intro is a joy although lyrics such as “I am addicted to your physiology” may leave you scratching your head if you try too hard to decipher the story.
The best moments are centred around excellent guitar work once more. The gradual ascending melody of Until The Sun Goes Down permeates throughout a thrilling number that reveals Keeler’s excellent bass capabilities, whilst another outstanding cut DWMT sounds like Status Quo on acid and the superb Sit Back recalls glam rock like David Bowie’s early 70’s guise mixed with a touch of 1990’s Britpop like Supergrass.
Ignoring the underlying storyline, The Weasel Is At The Bridge is a tremendous collection of fuzzy, lo-fi pop-rock. Despite the cover art appearing to some as being similar to a Kings Of Leon album cover, closer inspection will reveal a weasel, an owl and a moustachioed fellow, presumably Keeler himself. An intriguing mix, then, just like its contents.