In these genre-bending days of crossovers, where it seems nobody wants to hear if there’s not at least a smidgeon of electronica or a smattering of dubstep in your music, it’s refreshing to hear a band doing a straightforward pop-rock album. On their debut, Arnold Sideways, Dublin quartet The Chapman Society stick primarily to the meat and two veg blueprint of drums, bass, guitar and vocals, with a string section augmenting the sound when they slow it down for the obligatory ballads (-Heartbreak’, -Day After Day’).
The twin vocals of Russell Keogh and Sean Kavanagh may draw some comparisons with fellow Dubs, Delorentos, but The Chapman Society generally trade in a more uncomplicated style, which is more akin to Glaswegians, The Fratellis, and even harks back to The Who at their less convoluted. There are also definite Britpop influences in tunes like -Blood Red Room’ and -I Really Don’t Deserve You’, which are a bit derivative for their own good.
While there’s a case for shouty, air-punching anthems like -Days You Disappear’, -Fire Fire Fire’ and -Even If You’re Right You’ll Still Be Ugly’ to become stalwarts on the summer festival circuit, it’s when they broaden the palette slightly that The Chapman Society become more interesting. The more restrained -Don’t Look Down’ and the uber-catchy -Normal Peoply’ betray a maturity to the songwriting and arranging that’s absent from other parts of this album, where the likes of -The Stopclock’ and -Davey Jones Locker’ are pop-rock by numbers.
The end result? Arnold Sideways isn’t going to rewrite the rulebook for rock -n’ roll, but it has enough decent songs to warrant attention, and there are a couple of genuine nuggets which suggest their future development could be worth watching.