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Chevelle - 'Sci-Fi Crimes' Review

Chevelle Get Anxious on Their Great Fifth Album

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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chevelle sci-fi crimes

Chevelle - 'Sci-Fi Crimes'

Photo courtesy Epic.
Chevelle rarely turn down the volume or the aggression on Sci-Fi Crimes, an angry, anxious record that will make for good listening when you’ve had a particularly infuriating day. As usual, this trio adapt alt-metal conventions for their own purposes, streamlining the genre’s ferocious guitar energy to create potent, accessible rock tunes. Frontman Pete Loeffler’s ambiguous lyrics may not make much literal sense, but they only add to this album’s snarling energy.

Clenched-Fist Fury

Chevelle have managed to produce several successful rock singles this decade, including “Send the Pain Below,” but they’ve been ridiculed for not being a particularly memorable unit. As with their earlier albums, Sci-Fi Crimes clearly owes a debt to Tool and Filter, but the band’s laser-like focus on producing blistering rock songs has never been so consistent as it is on this record. You shouldn’t turn to Chevelle for groundbreaking musicianship, but the clenched-fist fury of much of Sci-Fi Crimes feels both bracing and liberating.

Roughing Up Their Sound

In an interview prior to the release of Sci-Fi Crimes, drummer Sam Loeffler (Pete’s brother) mentioned that the band wanted to avoid the impulse to make a “sonically perfect record” as they had in the past. Chevelle’s instinct has paid off – Sci-Fi Crimes has a raw, twitchy vitality that’s been lacking in their previous albums. At the same time, the songwriting has gained heft and authority. What this all means in practical terms is that Sci-Fi Crimes sounds remarkably ticked-off – Chevelle are still writing for the mainstream, but their tunes feel convincingly scrappy and desperate. Losing some of that polish may end up hurting them commercially, but it’s resulted in a strong set of snarling songs.

Desperate, Cryptic Lyrics

Pete Loeffler seems to be free-associating with his lyrics, so be warned that you won’t be able to figure out precisely what he’s singing about most of the time. For instance, the stirring “Shameful Metaphors” starts with these quizzical lines: “Fear/It’s all the same/Should I evolve/To tend to these sights.” He risks sounding pseudo-poetic, but Loeffler’s nonsensical words often come across like the garbled ramblings of a frantic man trying to communicate with the outside world. That may sound like a criticism, but with Sci-Fi Crimes he uses that technique to his advantage – tracks like “Sleep Apnea” and “This Circus” have an added layer of mystery because his words elude easy explanation. Has the apocalypse come? Is he breaking up with his girlfriend? Has he gone insane? Beyond enjoying the engaging, raging music, you’ll keep listening to Sci-Fi Crimes in the hopes that you’ll be able to decipher his cryptic, dire lyrics.

Even When the Volume Decreases, the Paranoia Stays Turned Up

Sci-Fi Crimes isn’t entirely devoid of softer songs, but even these bristle with a faint sense of menace. The short instrumental “Interlewd” rumbles along for 81 seconds like a shark’s fin jutting out of the surface of the water. As for the stripped-down “Highland’s Apparition,” it might contain the album’s signature line. “I don’t think you’re nervous enough,” Pete Loeffler warns while he strums an acoustic guitar melodically. That moment captures what’s so good about Sci-Fi Crimes – even at its most accessible, the album never lets up on the unease.

'Sci-Fi Crimes' – Best Tracks

“Sleep Apnea” (Purchase/Download)
“Highland’s Apparition” (Purchase/Download)
“Fell Into Your Shoes” (Purchase/Download)
“Jars” (Purchase/Download)
“Shameful Metaphors” (Purchase/Download)

Release date – August 31, 2009
Epic Records

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