In Room 237 there’s an anecdote about a small theatre that screened The Shining and The Shining backwards, at the same time, superimposed on top of one another. Like most of the documentary, it was a silly idea that ended up seeming cool just because it made you think about The Shining more than you would have otherwise.
Anyway, in trying to put together some abstracted version of what Chimpgrinder is, I came up with the idea of doing the same thing with Kubrick’s other masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. I didn’t actually do it, but I’m familiar enough with the film to know what it would look like. And really it just comes down to the monkey part and the psychedelic space trip part collapsing onto each other.
Because that’s what Chimpgrinder is: monkeys in space. I mean, what Chimpgrinder really is is a 4-piece bluesy doom outfit from Philly that reminds one of a more economical, grittier version of old Clutch. But what’s really cool about Chimprinder is that they have a mythos. A mythos, for Christ’s sake. Their new album, Simian Space King, seems to be a follow-up to 2012’s Oliver, which (I think) tells the story of a captive chimpanzee whose past and/or future exploits in outer space are the only available escape from a terrestrial existence otherwise marked by regret, isolation, and mistrust. The whole thing’s about 10 minutes long, but it’s awesome, and you can get it FOR FREE here.
In Simian Space King, it seems that we find our hero stranded on a desolate planet far in the outer reaches or time, space, and consciousness. Abandoned, persecuted, and alone, he finally resolves to dig up his long forgotten spacecraft, dusted over with years of neglect, and venture once more to seek fulfillment (or is it vengeance?) in the darker corners of the aether. I could be completely wrong about all of this, and trust me, there are plenty of gaps that can only be filled by the imagination, but to tell the truth I prefer that element of vagueness. The album comes with a totally radical set of liner notes, full of lyrics and illustrations which don’t exactly “make sense” of the whole thing, but certainly provide plenty of material for reflection and interpretation. Taken as a whole, it all gives the impression that these two albums can only really scratch the surface of a saga, but they do a good enough job of convincing us that the rest of the details are truly hidden somewhere between the lines, and I feel like this is a much better approach than some kind of full-out rock opera with every plot point spoon fed to listeners.
It’s really good stuff. The band recorded/mixed/mastered everything themselves, and the execution is both impressive and pretty unique. There are a good amount of guitar overdubs, which would typically turn me off a bit, but what’s great about Steve Mensick’s guitar work on this album is that it really resembles the work of 2 guitarists. Not just one guitarist doing his main part and then adding a bunch of frills on top of it, but 2 guitarists with equally important roles continually intertwining parts. The intro to “Way Laid Way Out” is maybe the best example of this, but it’s a motif that runs throughout the album, and it gives the songs a ton of character. The rest of the band is just as much on point; Chris Scott and Chris Turek are as solid as rhythm sections come, and while Aaron Gerwer’s vocals are pretty buried in the mix (intentionally, I’m sure), they convey the frustrations and ambitions of a renegade space chimp as effectively as I can imagine.
Anyway, I can’t get enough of this album, and it’s free to download so if you aren’t listening to it yet you’re an idiot. Get it here.