A melancholic and existential Chastity Belt brings a lush new self-titled to Frannz Club on October 6.
Chastity Belt is the quintessential story of growing up–and discovering just how meaningless that is.
NPR First Listen released Chastity Belt’s second album, Time to Go Home, the day after my arrival to Berlin back in 2015, linking up (in my mind alone) their indie-darling-status with my messy Berlin birth. The women behind it–Julia Shapiro, Lydia Lund, Gretchen Grimm, and Annie Truscott–gave me my year-long cry of affirmation—my adrenaline rush, my post-party comedown, my fear and excitement and longing for whatever Berlin was going to be. (What is “Cool Slut” if not the perfect Berlin walk-of-shame soundtrack? What are poetics like “chip dip, nip slip” (from album No Regerts) if not essential words to scream out the window of your fourth-floor Körnerkiez flat after your seventh Sterni? And what is “On the Floor” if not the post-weekend sads turning to stones in your belly and… okay, you get it.)
Julia’s wild, throttling vocals; their marvelous mix of sad-girl humor alongside the very real anxieties of being alive — this was really something. Thank god for it.
Last week, Chastity Belt released their self-titled, Jay Som-produced fourth album. It’s textured and thick and rather grown-up (goddammit, is the party over?). It starts off aching with nostalgia with “Ann’s Jam,” a story of a long-ago road trip back in 2008. “We were driving south in your parents’ car, singing aloud to scratched CDs. Feeling meaningful. Thinking this is a start. And it’ll go on.” The contrast is startling—then and now, citing just how ultimately insignificant the “now” feels. “There’s a thick fog around everything I’ve learned.”
The undercurrent of anxieties from earlier albums has become the stronghold of this record—forcing a closer, more nuanced read. The exclamations are over. If it’s not necessarily time to fully “grow up,” then it’s at least time to stop wasting, erm, time. We suddenly don’t have a lot of it.
Second track “Elena” is a direct homage to Elena Ferrante, the pen name of an Italian writer who writes layered and marvellously emotional tales of female friendships–a perfect call-out from a band who’s been friends for over 10 years. “Measure your self-worth. Nothing ever turns out right.” It’s as though they’ve sat down at the edge of the party, realizing the drivel of conversation has very little to do with the magnitude of their feelings, of their horrendous fears—and that, at the center of that, they have one another. “You live within limits in life. Make meaning out of circumstance.”
“It Takes Time” is plodding and meditative, whilst “Half-Hearted” is an anxious, tired gasp–“Half-heartedly trying to get somewhere, but my feet are catching dust.” Yet eternally, the album is taut and wrought with emotion and age-old questions–none of which, maybe, we knew we’d be asking at this stage of life. The songs drift along with a sense of existential dread, yet the sound is focused and melodic and straight-up lush–making me return to it again and again and again. Perhaps I’m not that 24-year-old new-in-Berlin idiot any longer. The problems are thicker, wearier–a wet blanket we carry across our shoulders. And Chastity Belt has yet again brought a record to match.
If we have to move forward, we have to find new reasons for it–even in the depth of despair, or the incredible meaninglessness of whatever this is. Chastity Belt is at their best, making meaning out of circumstance. And dammit, they put on a really good show–so come see it.
Schönhauser Allee 36