CD Review of Love the Future by Chester French
Chester French: Love the Future
Recommended if you like
Ben Kweller, The Format,
Jimmy Eat Wor
Star Trak
Chester French:
Love the Future

Reviewed by Neil Carver


atching the video for Chester French’s single, "She Loves Everybody" is to receive the entirety of their debut album encapsulated in a nice, neat audio-visual, four-minute package. The album, Love the Future, like the video, is slickly produced, immediately entertaining, catchy and exciting, yet ultimately more style than substance, promising more than it delivers.

Chester French is a duo, not an individual. Newcomers D.A. Wallach and Max Drummey make up the band, with Wallach on vocals and Drummey showing exceptional ability on a host of different instruments. Their talents are clearly evident. Wallach’s vocals are strong and distinctive; American ‘90s pop with just enough soulful influences and a love of everything from Early British Rock to power pop to ‘80s-style New Romanticism. Drummey’s multi-instrumental aptitude is very impressive, making him the Sam Means (a la The Format) of the group. As per their own bio sheet, Chester French are focused on making smart pop music, accessible but challenging. The fact that these are two very smart guys is evident on their debut, for both good and ill.

Musically, Love the Future is a grabber. After the faux Spanish guitar "Introduction," the hard driving piano-based rock of "C’mon (On My Own)" and "Bebe Buell" are more Ben Kweller than Ben Folds, yet never succumb to any single category. That continues throughout… dance, electronica, country, layers of orchestration and a heavy debt to Northern British soul mix throughout the album, often to very engaging effect. Chester French push hard to break conventions, self proclaimed "post racial" in their influences and approaches, and that shows on the punk-pop-meets-Monkees sound of "The Jimmy Choos" or the Leonard Cohen-sings-hip-hop-country of "Beneath the Veil." There is an earnest intellectualism behind their experimentation that is pleasantly free of irony.

They leave the irony for the lyrics on their more straight-forward pop tunes. If their music is playfully experimental, there is a lot of clichéd bravado and emotional distance in the lyrics. This is what is reflected in the video and ultimately keeps the album from being as truly groundbreaking as they’d like it to be. "C’mon (On My Own)" could be a warning about wanting too much too soon, or a boast about how they are going to "run it all" themselves. They go on to sing about the girls they know, all of whom seem to be dysfunctional in one charming way or another, but the emotional resonance is lacking and there is no narrative to speak of.

"She Loves Everyone" is about a girl he can’t not sleep with, but whom he knows is simply substituting sex for affection. Yet nothing really happens in this sordid tale – it is just the way it is. The video shows Wallach and Drummey getting the snot kicked out of them by this same young woman for no apparent reason, not even anger. She simply does it. Shot in minimalist black and white, with the guys progressively battered and bleeding but otherwise unaffected by it all, this oddly detached visualization can be the unfortunate end result for the listener as well. The song eventually goes nowhere, just a showcase of slick production, nice edits, some clever make-up and effects, and the same can be said for the whole album. While not every record has to have a grand story or deep message, it can be disappointing here to get lured in by the intriguing, eclectic, engaging and often surprising music, only to find that there isn’t much being said.

There is no doubt that Chester French is on to something here. Love the Future is a very solid debut album that has a real chance of breaking through the pop charts without dumbing things down, but there is more potential for greatness than greatness itself. If Wallach and Drummey continue together and have a chance to deepen their music, put themselves into the songs rather than keep their creative distance, season it all with more heart and less posturing, their next work could be truly phenomenal.

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