By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Hair today, gone yesterday
It's not hard to imagine the members of Chet Arthur watching This is Spinal Tap and not getting a single joke, so blissfully unaware are they of rock-and-roll cliches. I mean, any band that writes "You can be my rock and roll fantasy / I can be anything you want me to be" obviously has no idea how silly that sounds coming from anyone this side of Nigel Tufnel or David St. Hubbins (or Tommy Shaw). Chet Arthur's sound is so far behind the times, it got lapped a few years back, coming from the days when men could wear spandex without fear of ridicule (ASKA, we're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you) and guitar wankery was in its heyday. In a way, you almost have to respect Chet Arthur's ignorance, sticking to its guns even though they've been full of blanks for at least a decade.
Of course, Dooms U.K. does many of the same things that Chet Arthur does, but at least the Dooms know how ridiculous it all is; in the hands of John Freeman and company, there's no difference between praise and parody. Chet Arthur, apparently, doesn't realize there is anything to be parodied. Buried Alive, Chet Arthur's debut album, is completely irony-free, reveling in Iron Maiden and Dio riffs without cracking a smile. The only thing good about Buried Alive is how well the band can get through songs that contain impossibly lame lyrics such as "Love once burned me / But from the ashes beauty flies free / Give me a ride on your opened wing" (from "Superhuman") with a straight face.
The band's best trick is starting half the songs with little more than an acoustic guitar before giving way to crunching power chords, a technique Metallica perfected years ago. Singer Tuzy Fenton's voice is somehow more overwrought than the lyrics, managing to sound like Ann and Nancy Wilson (of left-for-dead Heart) at the same time. It makes the lyrics sound even more absurd, especially on "Troublemaker," when she screeches through lines like "You see I'm bigger, badder, and better in bed" and "You should've learned to play guitar / You might've joined our club." Actually, Chet Arthur sounds better the worse it gets, unintentionally becoming a brilliant caricature. "Silver Spoons" is Puff Daddy metal, borrowing note-for-note the entire intro to Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train." "Buried Alive" makes you wish you were, as Fenton takes first place in a high school poetry contest: "Life sentence handed down this wedding day / I said 'I do,' now I don't do anything." And the cheesy "The Calling" eerily recalls the episodes of Saved by the Bell when the kids formed a band, right down to the whammy-bar guitar solo and its sign-my-yearbook dictum: "And I know that we'll always be friends / Forever and ever." Probably not.
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