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Wife (self-released)

The presence of misogyny in rock & roll isn't exactly headline news. From the crass objectification of 2 Live Crew to the dark sadism of the Afghan Whigs, women have been demonized as much as they have been celebrated in rock lyrics. Even still, the brash women-hating on Chapters' debut EP, Wife, is off-putting. In the course of these five tracks, the band manages to refer to a woman as a "bitch" as least twice, and the opening track "Side Effect" contains this charming come-on: "Take it or leave it now / Open your legs or not." The legs-spreading motif is continued on the next track "Critical End," at which point you'll be forgiven for turning off this EP and never thinking of Chapters again. Sexism and chauvinism as a creative tool has its place — no one accuses Mick Jagger of being a sensitive male — but Christ, let's be more creative with our sexual innuendo, fellas. The sexual drudgery continues on "Consensual," as the singer croons that "I wanted you consensual." Is there any other way short of, you know, rape? This clearly is not singer-songwriter/confessional territory — no one is accusing the band members of committing the emotional and physical brutality that these songs depict — but vocalist/lyricist Vincent Marks never quite inhabits these songs to make them intriguing character studies.

The band strives toward a dark and edgy sound, aiming for something like Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights but settling for the dour glam of the Killers' first album. It's hard to miss Marks' British affectations — his pronunciation sounds like the Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler crossed with a marbly-mouthed Britt Daniel. The musicianship is competent if predictable, but no amount of instrumental ingenuity can save the lyrical travesties on these songs. Maybe the whole thing is a giant piss-take on sexual roles and the unspoken but unbreakable positions of gender and power that make modern love an impossible game. Maybe the title of the Wife EP highlights the personas and masks we wear and the social constructs that define our relationships. But that gives Chapters too much credit. The misogyny would be shocking if there were something behind it — but here it comes off as boring, rote and empty.

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September 23, 2020

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