Record review: The Chemist – Ballet in the Badlands (2013, LP)

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The Chemist frontman Ben Witt once described his band’s music as being like a yo-yo: starting at one place and dropping down to another before returning back home. While genres are bounced around like a child’s toy on this excellent debut album, the Western Australian quartet’s tunes are underpinned by quality song-writing and dark lyrical themes throughout. Perth has been a veritable fountain of top drawer indie-rock talent in the last couple of years, and The Chemist are no exception; Ballet in the Badlands incorporates blues-y grooves, introspective pop, and melancholy folk in a slick collection of songs that reveals a little more with each listen. “The dress I hope she’s in is a shade of liquorice black, but if she sees through my charms her sister’s gonna take me back,” is a perfect example of Witt’s sharp lyrics on excellent opener ‘Heaven’s Got A Dress Code’. At no point do the band’s songs get repetitive; single ‘Silver and Gold’ is a catchy mix of creeping basslines, wailing guitars, and Gothic background vocals, ‘Sad Eyes’ is a soaring ballad, ‘Long Road Back’ is a short blast of dirty blues, and closer ‘Sparrow’s Shadow’ is a surprisingly jaunty pop number. There’s depth in these songs not present in many other band’s work, and perhaps working out where their eclectic tunes fit into an increasingly commercial music industry could be The Chemist’s biggest problem, but if they keep producing work of this calibre they will continue to draw people to their top-drawer indie-rock. (Dirt Diamonds)

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