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March 2023
Vol. 22, No. 6

CD Reviews

CHIMPOS: A Horse Splashes

by Frank KocherAugust 2021

Chimpos are a group of musicians who are “friends who grew up in Ocean Beach in the ’70s,” and they have released their second album, A Horse Splashes. The new disc follows in the steps of the group’s 2018 Flung Like a Horse, and it is another collection of 11 good-time rockers that don’t take themselves too seriously, with arrangements best described as bouncing from well-executed studio goof tracks to deep dives into alternative rock, garage style. The musicianship is uniformly excellent, as these are seasoned pros with decades of experience; the core band features founders Greg Hildebrand (guitars, vocals), Thomas Yearsley (bass), Matt Clowminzer (lead guitar), and David Friendly (drums). These players are only part of the story, though, as their website identifies 13 musicians, and most put in appearances on the album.
Originality is the strength, the tunes are originals that often prominently feature lyricist Hildebrand doing a friendly half-spoken voice over to build upon a guitar-based musical structure, often with contributions by a female-led backing chorus, with Laura Jane Wilcock prominent. “This Hole” opens and will shake loose memories of “Our House” by New Wavers Madness from the early ’80s, if it were given a reworking apropos to the 2020s. Hildebrand lays down a narrative: “The more I dig, the deeper I go.” On “When You Hear Me Scream” vocal contributions by Friendly are heard over an overdriven guitar lick, reflecting the band’s ability to rock it out convincingly, and “Apache Surf” puts the drums out front on an instrumental, a song with a surf soul that nonetheless prominently features nylon-string acoustic guitar, yet clicks.
The group takes a sidestep toward country as Skid Roper plays mandolin on “If I Guessed It” as a recurrent lick, which is heard with Yearsley singing about “I been looking all around/ I been looking and you’re not around/ Left my heart right here on the ground.” Next up, a similar riff is dressed up with Hammond organ (Steve Sundell) on “Never Really Know,” with Wilcox joining Hildebrand in the vocal slot. “Hillbilly Rocker” has Jack Tempchin relating a story about how “I love it, I gotta have it” as the guitars stake out a riff, reinforced by Johnny Viau on sax.
A bluesy guitar line anchors “O Chimpo” with a Sundell vocal that brings to mind a garage band. “A Round” is another tune related by Hildebrand in an essential spoken word presentation à la Lou Reed, including the typical Chimpo tongue-in-cheek lyrics, like “And I suppose you know/ They found what was left of you/ So let’s have a round.” The set closes with “This Hole Reprise,” with surf guitars, sax, wailing vocals, and electronic effects that fill the earphones. An appropriate closeout to a batch of music that seems to tap into collective Ocean Beach consciousness-delivered by Chimpos.

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