Monday 14 Jul

Admirals - Amidst the Blue

Sometimes it helps to not be very good.

Some of the best albums and artists were born out of happy accidents owed to varying degrees of early suckage — the perfect note or chord for a song found by missing the one you are aiming for, failed mimicry of an idol bearing something entirely new and great instead.

07/09/2014 | Comments 0

Kierston White - Don't Write Love Songs

The Tequila Songbirds have become just as beloved as about any group around these parts. And how could they not?

Featuring a revolving cast of the Sooner State’s most badass female performers, it’s a power hour of some of the best songwriting coming out of central Oklahoma. Sure, they might not technically be family, but they are clearly a band of sisters all the same, bonded by the same brand of whiskey running through their veins.

07/01/2014 | Comments 0

Depth & Current - Dysrhythmia

"Overproduced" is a term thrown around all too indiscreetly nowadays, usually applied when the thing that sticks out about a song or album is how it sounds rather than how it is constructed. Yet some of the most compelling albums ever crafted embodied a certain aesthetic that was just as skillfully and meticulously put together as any Bob Dylan or Miles Davis record — which is to say production is as crucial to our enjoyment of music as much as anything else; it's also the most overlooked.
06/24/2014 | Comments 0

Weak Knees - “IceBevo”

Indie rock has been in a good place as of late. Not caring about being cool is the new cool, and a couple of dudes on guitar, bass and drums can make catchy, earworm songs without being armed to the gills with computer software and vintage synthesizers.
06/17/2014 | Comments 0

Kyle Reid & the Low Swinging Chariots - “When I Was Young”

Every artist should be the star of their own creative life, which makes Kyle Reid’s steps out of the shadows of the many ensembles and supporting roles he has played in Oklahoma bands over the years to front and center on stage feel like a just journey.
06/17/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Unchained melody

Unchained melody

The Pretty Black Chains throw off indie pop’s shackles to emerge with a bigger, bolder, psychedelic sound.

Charles Martin May 25th, 2011

The Pretty Black Chains with The Non, The Burning Hotels, Chrome Pony, Moon and Gum
5-11:30 p.m. Saturday
Warpaint Clothing, 1710 N.W. 16th, 602-1581

The Pretty Black Chains
Credits: Stephen Carradini

There is perhaps nothing more fascinating and potentially disastrous than a band no longer bothered with the status quo, and deciding to play whatever the hell it feels like. Sometimes, this alienates fans; other times, it results in a significant artistic leap forward.

The Pretty Black Chains pulled an abrupt about-face with their new LP, “Awakening.” The Oklahoma City group’s re-emergence as riff-driven, psych rockers is bound to lose some fans who fell in love with its once sharp-as-a-tack, ’60s indie-rock sensibilities.

But is that a bad thing? “I’m done with ‘indie,’” said guitarist Derek Knowlton while folding T-shirts at his Plaza District store, Warpaint Clothing. Saturday’s release party/ cookout will be held in the shop’s back courtyard, and it was during long, lonely hours in Warpaint’s basement when he began toying with a new direction for the band.

“I really just wanted to bring back rock ’n’ roll,” Knowlton said. “In a way, it’s kind of like coming full-circle back to when I started playing in the ’90s. That really was the closest era to the ’70s with psychedelic guitar rock.”

Before, Knowlton and company seemed perpetually on the bubble of writing a breakout single, one that would grace Volkswagen commercials and hipster romantic comedies, but the timing was always a little off. Starting with the act’s roots in The Stock Market Crash, the carefully crafted ballads were half a step behind New Wave’s rise and fall. Then the Chains’ first album was late to the indie-rock surge.

With “Awakenings,” which Saturday’s guests will get free with paid admission, the Chains earnestly are attempting to find themselves within a bigger, more timeless sound based on the skilled musicianship that had been stifled in the restrictive pop-rock formats.

“It felt so good after having to backburner the guitar all these years, playing a sound that didn’t let me play up to my potential,” Knowlton said.

The song that started it all?

“Thorny Crown,” which closes out the album with pinging sitar, bashing drums and agile guitar sweeping over Kellen McGugan’s strutting, Mick Jagger-esque vocals.

“It was the first one I wrote that was more riff-based and more classic, almost ’90s-Jane’s-Addicition feel,” Knowlton said. “Like any artist, I’m really insecure

when I decide to changing directions, so I’m scared of what people will think, whether they will like my idea. We’d just finished another record, and I came to them and said I wanted to 86 the record and go for this new sound.”

The other members followed headlong into a more energetic, virtuosic approach which will work well in rock clubs and music festivals. Like any artistic experiment, it will take a little feeling out, but the Chains are closer than ever to realizing their tremendous potential.

“It’s almost like dating girls,” Knowlton said. “As you get older, you start to find yourself and understand where you want your niche to be, but before that, you’re just searching.”

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