Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: The Handcuffs “Waiting For The Robot”

The primary links in the Chicago-based band The Handcuffs are lead singer Chloe F. Orwell and drummer/songwriter Brad Elvis (formerly of the band Big Hello). The duo sites their influences range from David Bowie to Burt Bacharach, PJ Harvey to the Pixies, White Album to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with some Ting Tings, T. Rex, and Sparks tossed in for good measure. Two albums down already, “Waiting For The Robot” is due to arrive September 6.

Overall impressions: Orwell and Elvis have crafted a record that truly pays homage to their influences without ripping them off. Elvis is a fantastic drummer and his beats are a highlight throughout the record. The rest of the band is tight, helped along by masterful production from Mike Hagler (Wilco, Pulsars, Neko Case). Orwell is a solid rock vocalist that brings Shirley Manson (Garbage) to mind - not all that remarkable, but it suits the musical style of The Handcuffs. There is some filler weighing the record down and one could argue that the best tunes should have been pulled for an EP release.

The blistering opener “Dirty Glitter” is hot – it sizzles with intensity and has a juicy hook lifted by T. Rex-styled backing vocals. On this track the band reaches its full potential. The closing track is my favorite - a moving, contemplative ballad called “The Scary Side Of Me”. This song is truly beautiful, and Orwell’s vocals sound right at home in this well developed piece. There isn’t anything else on the CD that soars to the heights reached by these two tunes, but most of it is still a fun ride. Some of the songs are spiced up with some horns, which provide an interesting dynamic, but usually not enough to rescue the song from mediocrity. Some of the more melodic highlights include the danceable “Ooh Baby Baby” and the acoustic-based pop rocker “Eight Down”. Some other tracks, like “Kiss This Goodbye”, probably work better live on stage.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 5, 13

The Handcuffs Official site