Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blast from the Past: Split Lip/Chamberlain

Ten years before 'emo' rock erupted with the likes of Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, and Brand New - there was Split Lip, who later became known as Chamberlain - one of the pioneering emotional rock/hardcore bands of the 90s. It's quite easy to see why Chamberlain's music was such an influential force on the emo movement that's still with us; their sound had all the intensity of punk and grunge music combined with heart-on-sleeve lyrics delivered with earnestness by singer David Moore in a reckless style that you can still hear echos of today. Though I've mostly lost my taste for anything emo, I found the group's recently re-issued sophomore album, Fate's Got A Driver, to be a gripping and enlightening discovery.

There's a sincerity to Chamberlain's music that few of their posterity ever managed to really grasp, and their intelligent lyrics and solid musical chops make the eight tracks of 1995's Fate's Got A Driver quite compelling. Opener "Her Side Of Sundown" crosses the rock attitude of Pearl Jam with messy, emotionally-charged vocals more common to the emocore scene, while the bouncy, energetic guitar lines of "Yellow Like Gold" sound something like the ghost of Taking Back Sunday past. Other highlights include the bass-heavy punk-rock of "Uniontown" and the explosive "Drums and Shotguns," which, fittingly enough, features some fantastic drum work.

Though much of the record focuses on hard-hitting rock 'n' roll, some less bombastic moments, like the slow-burning "Five Year Diary," and the soft, acoustic "The Simple Life" sound like they alone might have provided the inspiration for dozens of sensitive singer/songwriters that would follow. There are, certainly, other influences from which more recent emo bands have drawn, but for a group that lasted less than ten years and only released a few records, Chamberlain managed to have quite an obvious effect on modern alternative music. If you haven't previously had the opportunity, now would be a great time to introduce yourself to this influential Indiana-based quartet.

Take a listen for yourself at their MySpace page or head over to Doghouse Records, where you can find more information about the re-release of Fate's Got A Driver on LP, with previously unreleased and rare material.