Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 9/9/08.
Formed in 1987, Chapterhouse was a British shoegazing band from Reading, England. Led by vocalist/guitarist Andrew Sherriff and guitarist/vocalist Stephen Patman, the band also included bassist Jon Curtis, guitarist Simon Rowe, and drummer Ashley Bates. Curtis left the band in 1991 just before the band was to sign a deal with Dedicated Records. Russell Barrett filled in Curtis' role as in 1991, the band released their full-length debut entitled Whirlpool. Produced by Ralph Jezzard and Jim Warren, Whirlpool is a dreamy, evocative, and blistering album that is considered to be one of the definitive albums of the shoegazing genre. With a 2006 reissue that included seven bonus tracks from the band's first three EPs released in 1991. Whirlpool is one of the most unsung and often overlooked albums of the British indie music scene.
The album opener Breather is an upbeat, rollicking track led by Ashley Bates' pounding drums, washy and arpeggio guitars from the trio of Andrew Sherriff, Stephen Patman, and Simon Rowe. With Russell Barrett's bouncy bass line, Sherriff sings in a dream-like high-pitch vocal range with layers of arpeggio and washy guitar riffs in the background. The single Pearl, featuring Slowdive vocalist Rachel Goswell on backing vocals, is a smooth, mid-tempo track filled with shimmering, washy guitars and arpeggio layers. With a dance-like rhythmic track in the background, it's one of the band's standout cuts with Sherriff's vocals singing in a lower octave. With its dreamy lyrics and presentation, the track includes an instrumental break of beats similar to Siouxsie & the Banshees' Kiss Them For Me. Autosleeper is a washy, shimmering song led by its guitars and Sherriff's evocative vocals as he's joined by Patman on backing vocals. The song presents itself mostly as a slow, dreamy wash track with an instrumental break of fast, pounding noises.
Treasure is a smooth, upbeat track with an excellent downbeat and growling guitar washes as Sherriff sings the song with grinding, noisy guitars are in the background. Another standout cut, the song is true to the sound its genre expects with its mix of dream-like atmosphere and grinding guitar noises. Falling Down is a rhythmic, funky track that's in tune with the Madchester music scene of the time as Sherriff sings through looped, warbling production with blazing guitar swirls popping up. Then the song shifts into a smoother tempo and then going back and forth from rhythmic to smooth, dream-like noise sound. April is a slower yet grinding track with shimmering guitars and pounding rhythms as Sherriff sings through his evocative vocals with swirls of riffs and droning arpeggios.
Guilt is an upbeat song with rich, arpeggio chimes and crashing rhythms led by Russell Barrett's bouncy bass and the triple guitar work of Sherriff, Patman, and Rowe. With its blistering guitars and slow, intense rhythms with Ashley Bates' pounding drums and Sherriff's dream-like vocals. If You Want Me is a slow ballad with opening, arpeggio chimes and dream-like guitar washes as Sherriff sings softly before the song becomes a full-band sound with swift-pounding drums and crisp production. With a chorus that's accompanied by chainsaw-like guitars, it becomes a more blistering track in its second half. The album closer in its original form is Something More. Led by its swirling guitars and slow, pounding rhythms, the song starts off dreamy with Sherriff's vocals before going into a blazing instrumental break with its guitars. With a guitar solo near its coda, it becomes a grinding, shoegaze-inspired track that is a fitting close to the album.
The seven bonus tracks in the 2006 reissue are compiled from the band's first three EPs. First is Need (Somebody) that is a fast, bass-pounding track that is filled with distorted vocals and punk-inspired energy for about a minute and twenty seconds. Then it slows down a bit for a more blazing, guitar-driven track before going back to its punk-rock style intensity that's a bit overbearing. Inside Of Me is an upbeat, rocking track that's reminiscent of early My Bloody Valentine with its fast-hitting beats, washy guitars, and pounding bass as Sherriff sings through a reverb, vocal production as it's a standout cut. Sixteen Years is a ballad with a loopy bass line by Russell Barrett and slow beats as it's driven by washy guitars and indistinct vocals by Sherriff that's barely audible in its production. Then the song goes into rock mode with its blazing guitar noises and fast-hitting beats before going back into its ballad-like tempo.
Satin Safe is an upbeat track with a menacing, blazing guitar solo that plays through the band's hard-hitting beats and Sherriff's evocative vocals. Then the song changes tempo a bit for something slower as the guitars play in a grinding style as it moves back and forth. Feel The Same is a track filled with swift, dance rhythms and a throbbing bass line as it's a simple, swift pop song that's in tune with the style of Madchester. With Sherriff's soft vocals, it's a memorable song that features a break of shimmering guitars and a melodic solo that plays through in the background.
Come Heaven is an eerie ballad with a shimmering guitar background and an arpeggio-riff being played at the same time. With its smooth, throbbing rhythm, the dream-like song is one of the band's finest tracks though at times, it does drag a bit with nothing really spectacular happening. The final track is In My Arms, which is a mid-tempo yet bouncy track with washy guitars, loopy bass lines, and swift beats as Sheriff sings softly. Yet, despite its presentation, it's another track that doesn't really do anything and ends up being a bit boring.
Following its release in 1991, the album was a hit with people in the shoegaze scene though success through the British indie scene proved to be minimal. In America, they were another obscure act as they failed to breakthrough. Yet, as British music continued to change, Chapterhouse tried to keep up with the times where their sophomore release Blood Music was a change in direction. Yet, the album wasn't a hit and things got worse due to an issues with samples of other material as the album was withdrawn from the public. After releasing a compilation of singles, B-sides, and rarities in 1996, Chapterhouse called it quits. The various members formed other projects while Simon Rowe ended up being a guitarist for Mojave 3, an offshoot of another famed shoegaze band, Slowdive. In 2008, a year after the release of a best-of compilation, Chapterhouse reunited for a few dates in British music festivals.
While Whirlpool doesn't reach the heights of the recordings of other shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Lush, and Slowdive. It's still an excellent album from Chapterhouse and essentially, the one to get outside of compilation records. Though the album is hard to find through retail stores, it's an album that can be easily found with its bonus tracks through peer-to-peer sharing files. In the end, Whirlpool is a dreamy, evocative album from one of shoegaze's premier bands.
(C) thevoid99 2011