Saturday, 3 September 2016

Review: Deaf Chonky - FARSH [2016]

For those reading who are not at all connected to the Israeli underground scene, you might not know who Deaf Chonky are. For those of you who are involved, you must be familiar with these two young ladies by now!

Deaf Chonky (a play on words of the Russian for "girls") are a young musical duo who have basically become the biggest thing in the Israeli underground/punk scene within a year, if not less. They don't actually consider themselves punk, preferring to use the term "garage-folk" (copyright pending). It is highly appropriate, to be fair. As I already mentioned in a previous live review (see here), they do have punk and riot grrl elements to their music, but it's more that they use that energy and angst with more experimental folk musicianship and thought provoking poetry.

When listening to the new album, FARSH, the poetry is there from the beginning. In 30 second intro track, Wild, guitarist and main vocalist Adi passionately uses metaphors which, admittedly, go a little over my head but seem to focus on the concept of getting things (possibly "life") over and done with quickly. As it ends with a scream, it gives hope that things can only get more crazy from here on in.

Most of the album continues with the poetry but mixed with very good song structure and passionate musicianship. In some cases, like with Shirley, the poetry takes on more of a narrative style but the lyrical content throughout the album tends to be social commentary, using high level English and more metaphors.
  Folk(a) Party(a), the song the band considers to be their only real "punk" track, has crazy saxophone parts courtesy of Itay Levin. Its changes in dynamics (part sea shanty, part experimental rock) makes it an exciting track, although it doesn't quite have the "party" vibe I was hoping for. If that's meant to be ironic, then that's ok but annoying! Kontrol, compared to its demo version (from last year's Mostly Farsh demo), has more structure and an intriguing chorus but has kept Adi's tongue twister delivery in the verses, which was the main charm of the song.
  Bad Things Could Happen is an epic musical journey, going off at tangents but ultimately circling back to the anthemic and infectious chorus, musically reminiscent of The Fun Lovin' Criminal. Social Security, possibly the album's highlight,  switches between angsty garage rock and sweet 60s style doo woop without sounding forced or self indulgent. The sweet "ooh wa ooh"s in the chorus paired with the lyrical content gives the song quite a menacing undertone. Diagnosa, nearer the end of the album, could almost be a theme tune to a Tarantino movie, with a Misirlou inspired main riff. It's a fun number with Tami's upbeat drumming making the tune the most danceable on here. 

As well as just structural and genre experimentation, the girls showcase their range of musical talents. On the traditional folk-sounding and mostly Hebrew sung Gozalim (Baby Chicks), we get to hear Adi's banjo and contrabass skills and some harmonica by Tami, as well as their sweet vocal harmonies. The harmonica also shows up on International Criminal, which comes off like a creepy waltz due to its 3/4 time signature and dark lyrics. 

Unfortunately, midway through the album, the lyrical genius and interesting musicianship takes a bit of a backseat as there's a sprinkle of what feels like "fillers". Brush Your Teeth and its repetitive "Time for bed" refrain is catchy and reminiscent of 90s Brit Pop but could be longer. It's a good track but feels like an afterthought. Their version of short Lithuanian song, Dolijute, is cute as hell but could have just been left as a live number. Then there's 08, which I'm starting to think is a mistake that they just left in. It's literally a 20 second soundcheck on parts of the drum kit! 

Tying things off using a sampler and synth on the short pulsating Looks Good, Deaf Chonky have certainly created an album which can't really be pigeon-holed easily, nor be considered "boring". Despite the odd unnecessary inclusion, most of the songs on here are incredibly well put together, both musically and especially lyrically, sometimes even resembling the poetical genius of artists like Nick Cave and Patti Smith. Their musicianship has improved since their demo and their creativity has really shone through. Although their popularity may have initially grown to hype, FARSH is proof that Deaf Chonky have something special going on.


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