Emo Pop meets ’80s
Alt-rockers The Chain Gang of 1974 partnered with Caroline Records to self-release their latest album, FELT. The band formed from 3OH!3 bassist and DJ Kamtin Mohager, the name inspired by The Raveonettes album, The Chain Gang of Love.
The nine-track album opens with “Slow,” featuring an ’80s pop-inspired beat with a radio-friendly, alt-pop, repetitive melody that seems to go on and on. “Wallflowers” is in similar fashion with pulsing deep synths and not a hook in sight, just a mildly interesting guitar line. “I Still Wonder” starts off promising with sultry sax lines, but proves to be another hookless track, this time with an attempt at sounding like a less successful M83.
At this point, it has become clear that Mohager’s idea of a “hook” is just repeating a line in the verse softly, as it’s challenging to grab the listener’s attention. “Forget” (featuring The Naked and Famous’s Alisa Xayalith) lays down a thick synth bed, but proves that additional vocals aren’t always a successful attribute. In fact, the track would almost be better without the nasal-pop vocals that take the track right out of the ’80s atmosphere it attempts to create. “Why do I keep forgetting to forget you,” Mohager trivially sings, his lyrics about as well-crafted as those of an angsty middle-schooler. The saving graces of the track are the instrumental glimpses that are heavily ’80s-influenced.
“Why am I looking for love in the wrong place?” Mohager asks repetitively in the upbeat, teen dance, party dream “Looking for Love.” “It Needs You” slows down the album, incorporating fuzzy electronic effects, shimmering synths and soft vocals, as it takes a page out of The Naked and Famous’s signature sound. The major scale bass line ends the track with a nod to New Order. This is followed by “Bliss,” which gives off a serious emo vibe that any early ’00s high school graduate would enjoy. “Human” is upbeat and reminiscent of the Ataris, featuring one of the catchiest beats on the entire album. “Temptation” closes the album on a somber note with long, lyrical lines from Mohager and a belting chorus, singing, “We ain’t got no place to go / to get rid of this temptation.”
While there’s clearly an established audience for The Chain Gang of 1974, die-hard ’80s fans may be challenging to win over with FELT. In Mohager’s eyes, the future of new wave is to incorporate ’80s backgrounds with pop and EDM-inspired licks and melodies. This accomplishes a nostalgic, emo aspect that can truly be felt in Mohager’s work.