Hats on– not off– to the bull

By Nabi Dressler
News Editor
Bands that release any material after their first album inevitably fall into a lose-lose situation. They can either change their sound or stay the same. Either way, they’ll upset someone.
Whether a band throws away their instinct and goes for a completely different sound or tries to produce an album in order to revive what they sounded like in their prime, they’ll be criticized for either “selling out” and becoming mainstream or being uncreative and losing their edge.
This is especially applicable to Chevelle, a rock trio that originated from Grayslake in 1995. Chevelle can be shunned for every reason under the sun because their sixth studio album, Hats Off to the Bull (streaming on their Facebook page here), is both softer than some of their previous albums and vastly similar-sounding to other albums.
Most songs on the album sound distinctly like Chevelle’s older work, with heavier guitar chords and darker vocals thanks to the raw and powerful voice of lead singer Pete Loeffler. It’d be tough to hear a snippet of track six, “Envy,” without recognizing Loeffler’s coarse vocals.
Chevelle returns to what they’re good at with Hats Off to the Bull. There are prevalent distorted power chords, an aspect of their music that immediately comes to mind when I think about Chevelle’s sound.
A refreshing change in this album is that Chevelle throws in their opinions on 21st century issues. The opening song, “Face to the Floor,” is about conman Bernie Madoff’s swindling and Ponzi scheme. “Well, caused by their own/And by default/Time to vamanos/Like your face getting forced to the floor,” the lyrics declare (the lyric video is here).
Unfortunately, most melodies on this album, such as “Face to the Floor,” are all too repetitive of each other. It’s evident there’s a lack of thinking outside the box creatively when every song on the album sounds more or less like, well, the exact same song.
“Prima Donna” is one track that’s a little different. It’s an acoustic track that exemplifies Chevelle’s newer, smoother side. The vocals on this track aren’t breaking any new ground, though.
All in all, this album sounds too similar to Chevelle’s older work. Though it’s appreciated that they’re still making the music they’re known to make, if I wanted to listen to their earlier albums, I’d listen to their earlier albums.