The Chap, We Are Nobody

Rob Young

By Rob Young

on 02.21.12 in Reviews

East London’s the Chap are tailor-made for the over-educated, “creative economy” audiences of their Shoreditch and Dalston stamping grounds. The quintet have developed a similar sleight-of-hand to LCD Soundsystem: Even as they draw attention to their nerdy, loser status (their strapline: “the most interesting pop failure in history”), they outfox and outfunk the hipsters at their own game. Contrariness is built into their DNA: They’re led by a German expat whose urbane drawl is almost campily English; their cheap live-band sound is as rigorously regimented as Kraftwerk or Can; and their lyrics, waggling with ironic rabbit ears, often reveal a deeply-embedded romantic heart.

Tautly metronomic pulses, meshes of lo-fi synths and ’80s-funk guitar licks

Chap songs are built on tautly metronomic pulses, busy meshes of lo-fi synths and clipped ’80s-funk guitar licks, with fembot backing vox from Claire Hope and Berit Immig. We Are Nobody, the self-deprecatingly titled follow-up to 2011′s “greatest hits” compilation We Are The Best, is loaded with all of the above, as well as hints of early-’80s boffin bands such as New Musik and The Flying Lizards, if they had been keeping tabs on the latest techno microstyles. On opener “Rhythm King,” Johannes Von Weizsäcker manages the trick of belittling vacuous dancefloor chat while also expressing the ecstatic, wordless abandon that a darkened dancehall can provide.

If his deadpan delivery gets pushed to the edge on “Look At the Girl” – in which an idyllic hairspray-ad vision turns uncomfortably sour – The Chap’s infectious sense of pacing and the quirky twists and turns of their self-produced sound world are compelling reasons to ignore the arched eyebrows. “Writing’s for cowards, talking’s for men/ Cowards write songs and never do what needs to be done,” confesses Von Weizsäcker in silvered multitrack harmonies on “What Did We Do?” We Are Nobody is the revenge of the cowards.