The first thing I heard of Chiodos was a demo version of ‘All Nereids Beware’ and I was struck by the appalling production, whiny vocals that were rarely in tune, and the crappy sounding keyboard bouncing around underneath everything. It was almost laughably bad, but for some reason I couldn’t stop playing the song. It’s like having an ulcer in your mouth: you know that touching it would be a stupid idea because it hurts like a bitch, but for some reason you keep on prodding it. When ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ came out, I gave it a listen thinking “let’s see how it sounds once it’s been properly tidied up and produced well.” Erm… well.
The production on this album is much like the haircuts of the band members at the time; extremely wonky and messy, but not by accident – it’s taken real thought and careful construction to get such a precisely bad result. Objectively, I’d have to say that this album is indefensively bad. But that’s the beauty of music: it’s not objective – it’s an art-form and therefore carries an emotional response. Like most matters of the heart, you can’t always explain why you react in a certain way; sometimes it’s best to just go with it.
I was sure that Craig Owens’ vocals were a parody when I first heard them. The tone of his voice is grating and annoying, he never really seems to hit the notes he’s going for (if indeed there ever is an intended direction), yet he continues to do it on every song. Listening to his voice in isolation is a form of torture, but against the laughable tone of a keyboard that sounds like it cost £10 from Argos and the sloppy, discordant guitars, they actually start to gather some character.
‘Expired in Goreville’ is a perfect example: everything individually is wrong, but put them together and the riffs are actually quite good, the drumming is interesting and having a child’s keyboard flicker in and out gives it a unique tone that’s quite endearing. Once you fall into thinking this way, the rest of the album reveals itself in the same light – there are many redeeming qualities in the musicality that makes you realise that these musicians are actually very competent and what they’ve put together on this record is a deliberate attempt at carving out a niche for themselves.
‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ isn’t the product of sloppy, unintelligent band, it’s an album that captured the spotlight by deliberately adopting a persona to give the band an edgy style. Even though this record sounds ridiculous on the surface, much like those emo haircuts, you don’t just stumble on this kind of carefully curated madness – it has to be carefully shaped and constructed.
On the follow-up record ‘Bone Palace Ballet’, the musicians decided they no longer wanted to fit this persona and tried to create a more mature, obvious representation of their skills. Unfortunately Owens wasn’t looped in and his comedy vocals spilled over from this record, ruining what might’ve been an otherwise solid album.
I can’t describe to you any technical reasons why I love this record, but I can put it in terms I do understand: food. I can cook a pretty excellent burger and I’ve been to good restaurants and tasted some fine examples there as well. I know what a great burger tastes like, but it doesn’t prevent me stopping in at McDonald’s and devouring one of their overly-processed offerings on the way home from a gig. I know it’s not the best, but damn it I don’t care – there’s something comforting, charming and sentimental about it and that clouds my brain into thinking it tastes pretty good. Chiodos’ ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ is much the same and created a phrase that me and Mike often use to describe these records: “it’s terrible; I absolutely love it”. Sometimes sentimentality clouds our logical brain and though it can’t be reasoned, it can give us some of our most treasured feelings. Just like loving an ugly child, our emotions get in the way of seeing what’s objectively in front of us, but we love them all the same (thanks mum and dad!)
Contrary to most Flashback Fridays I’m not going to advise that you go and find this record and play it, because that would be unfair to you and I don’t want to put you through that. Instead, think of a record that you love but others hate – what is it that draws you in? Pop that on your speakers and rekindle that secret love affair.