One of the most gratifying things as a music fan is to be able to follow a band throughout their career – to witness them progress as musicians and individuals, and to hear such reflected in their songs. Some bands chalk up an impressive number of albums, their fans tirelessly discussing and debating their ranking. Others release records with gaps of three or four years, or out of the blue after a decade-long hiatus. The vast majority, however, are doomed to fade into obscurity, be it due to creative difference, lack of funding or lack of interest. One and Done aims to celebrate those bands who were only ever able to release one album, but did so with such finesse that sequels are craved whilst also, perhaps, being entirely unnecessary.
“Everybody has a story to tell. I don’t want to hear yours, nor does anybody else.”
The above quote from The Chapman Family’s first and only album Burn Your Town is a roundabout way for me to say that I’m not about to deluge you with flagrant biography and pointless backstory. All you really need to know about this lot is that they were antagonistic and ridden with angst, two qualities that are basically prerequisites for the post-punk bludgeoning they engaged in. Their tenure as a band did last for about eight years, mind – it’s just that they underwent several roster changes and were the recipients (see: victims) of an NME stamp of approval (see: kiss of death) that made them the unfortunate passengers of a hype train that didn’t entirely suit their black-and-white messages of malaise.
To their credit, they did their best to not buckle under the mild heat of that dim-but-nonetheless-there spotlight. It was late 2008, early 2009 when their name began to pass the lips of UK festival goers, but they didn’t release Burn Your Town until 2011. The choice to not jump the gun was a concerted one, as the Chapmans opted to make a proper album, with direction and reason — not just a loose bunch of songs, which seemed to be the ongoing trend. Leading man Kingsley even gave a track-by-track account in an effort to push it as a body of work, a somewhat unforeseen act of courtesy from someone who spent a great deal of time wrapping microphone cords around his neck.
What critics lazily compared to Joy Division and The Cure (a cardinal sin for music journos) was actually something that deserved to at least be considered separately. Burn Your Town basically encapsulated youth objection: it was hostile and caustic, challenging by way of loudness not poetry, and barefaced about its intentions. It battered with common complaints about the opponents of younguns, phrased in ways that are all too easy to bellow along with short of second thought: “Well they say it’s alright, alright, alright. Well I just don’t know, well I just don’t know, I DUNNO!!” They weren’t saying anything abstract, but that was never the point. Torrents of anger don’t need to be articulate; this band’s form of critical expression simply involved pulverising a drum kit and granulating fingers against a guitar.
Atop the brutal brevity of singles ‘Kids’, ‘All Fall’ and ‘Anxiety’, it’ll be their intrepid attempts to enliven the landscape that people will remember The Chapman Family by. They never really came close to usurping the trite, robotic bands that forced them into existence, but they did achieve what they needed to without ever suffering from dilution. Endowed with that rare, inimitable understanding that stagnancy is one of music’s biggest struggles, the end came once they sensed that they’d plateaued. And examined against the nauseating inertia of comeback tours, and careers being clutched with the same denial as a man who dines with the dressed up corpse of his mother, it feels like the single best way to cap years of drudgery.
And so came one final single, one final pit-stop, and a subsequent silence. Meanwhile, we’ll have to hope that the tepidity of bred bands continues, so that others like The Chapman Family may rear their heads and make ‘wanker’ hand gestures at them.