Tuesday, August 17, 2010



We Chase the Waves
Asian Man Records

"It's time to sink or swim, sail on or anchor in..."

Lawrence Arms guitarist Chris McCaughan’s second solo album We Chase the Waves opens with a brooding crash of thunder, rolling deep under the wistful first line, “The air is filled with dust and smoke…” Recorded during a summer electrical storm, it was a totally random inclusion. “We listened back and I looked at Neil (Hennessy) and we were like, um, I think we should keep that.”

Again, McCaughan turned to Lawrence Arms and Smoking Popes drummer Neil Hennessy for basslines and collaboration. And We Chase the Waves was recorded over an eight-month period in Hennessy and McCaughan’s apartments in Logan Square, Chicago.
Just like his debut, Four One Five Two, McCaughan’s wrung his heart dry over another batch of sentimental storyteller acoustic folk: “I’ve got dreams as the crow flies,” he sings. “I dance to the here and the now.” McCaughan’s images are worth a thousand words.

Cello, piano and backing vocals partner on Four One Five Two Jenny Choi seems to have disappeared and We Chase the Waves is even more straightforward than its predecessor. It’s straight-up singer-songwriter folk: “And I got strings… and calloused fingers, a scratchy throat, a melody that lingers. I’ve got paper, I’ve got ink, I’ve got a bunch of notes I scribbled down, I think, I could make a song somehow.”

“Whales and Sharks” borders on cheese – anyone else and I’d be retching. But that’s my only complaint. Songs like “In the Flicker” and “As the Crow Flies” are instant classics. “Mouth of A Tiger” is probably my favourite (so far). It’s a vivid, nostalgic trip, crashing through memories I’ve never experienced: “I’ve got clich├ęs to write, I get high as a kite.” McCaughan’s sentimental poetry gets you deep in your lower spine and holds you there, his simple, acoustic strums and lead solo accentuating the raconteur feeling in his voice.

Showing off his love for Chicago and old poetry, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” is a not-so-subtle nod to Franklin Pierce Adams’ 1910 baseball poem dedicated to legendary Chicago Cubs double-play trio Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance.

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Asian Man Records

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