From the time of their last release, 2015’s ‘Time To Go Home’, Chastity Belt sound as though they’ve not had much sleep and thoroughly given up on life. And it sounds amazing.
Since their formation in 2010, the all-girl indie rock band have taken influence from pioneers of the riot grrrl movement Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill, confronting issues of femininity and gender with a sort of sparkling humour. This trademark playfulness, however, is the most notable exception from their third album ‘I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone’.
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The end result remains noticeably in keeping with the Chastity Belt canon, reading like the angst-ridden yet strikingly intelligent diary of a twenty-something on the cusp of either failure or greatness. The listener is clearly discernable: she is ordinary, spiritually and sexually unsure of herself, ambitious, smart yet deeply insecure about her life. Above all, she is a she. This album, like most of Chastity Belt’s work, is inherently feminine.
‘What The Hell’ captures the overriding ethos of ‘I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone’ better than any other track: “I had a lot of thoughts today / I felt okay”. Nothing is objectively wrong, but nothing feels particularly right with life. Ergo, you feel utterly disillusioned: “I just look at my phone again / I want to die / Aside from that, I feel alright”. Although both ‘What The Hell’ and ‘It’s Obvious’ reference the breakdown of a relationship, the songs are much more about the person singing than the person she is involved with.
Lyrically, the album is obsessed with time: with wasting it, pretending to enjoy it, killing it, doing anything else with it than what you really want to be doing… ‘Something Else’ chronicles the weird temporal displacement of insomnia, which leaves the protagonist feeling out-of-step: “I woke up when it was getting dark / that’s not how life is supposed to work”.
In fact, the album could very well chronicle a sleepless night in the life of a cynical, discouraged and depressed young woman, culminating in the furious ‘5am’. Alternating between a jangling rhythm guitar and a thundering drum beat, the song relentlessly juggles optimism and negativity before screeching to a halt, intentionally unresolved.
Every song is permeated with the feeling of everything being just okay. But the album itself is so much more than just okay. A continuation of Chastity Belt’s previous explorations of young womanhood, their latest effort provides a seething, uncensored view of an existential, quarter-life crisis. They have shown that their humour is merely an accessory to their artistry, and they are more than capable of delivering a sincere, serious record on a different level.