Personnel: Panos Ghikas (vocals, guitar, violin, drums, computer); Johannes Von Weizsäcker (vocals, guitar, cello, keyboards, computer); Claire Hope, Berit Immig (vocals, keyboards); Keith Duncan (vocals, drums).
Recording information: Berlin; Kent; London.
It's a good thing the Chap went light on the irony on We Are Nobody, because they needed all of it for The Show Must Go. A nightmarishly funny satire of rock and the issues facing 21st century Europe, the album's subject matter is almost too apt for them. With members of British, Greek, German, and French heritage, the band has more than one perspective on the European Union's problems, plus they've always been a bit political, challenging the status quo of music and human nature on previous albums. Here, they protest the protest songs as well as the issues --"Jammer," The Show Must Go's lead single, is three minutes of wordless whining over herky-jerky new wave -- and suggest that rock never has and never will change society. In its own way, it's as radical a viewpoint as the idea that rock could change the world was half a century beforehand. It's also a perfect fit for the themes of futility that run through much of the Chap's music, which they channel into acerbic briskness as they trace crises large and small on The Show Must Go. Though their grasp of the bigger picture is impressive on "Post Doom Doom," which encourages Greece to stay in the Eurozone, the more intimate sketches are among the best. The Chap explore the dehumanizing aspects of 21st century life from several different angles, all of them chilling: the children intoning "make me ready to be market ready" on "Student Experience" add to its creepiness, while the admiration of drone technology on "Epic Tolerance" makes for a telling contrast with the less-than-human treatment of warehouse workers on "Partly People." Understandably, The Show Must Go is also peppered with vivid portraits of people seeking escape. The standout "He'd Rather Die, He's Getting Ready," which the Chap describe as a "Marxist suicide song," spotlights their ability to be detached and emotional simultaneously as they layer lyrics like "I found myself years and years ago/And it's the worst thing that's ever happened to me" over a melody that nods to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" with equally clever and affecting results. Later, the longing for a Pied Piper on "Guitar Messiah" recalls Denim's brilliance at sending up and shutting down rock clichés. Indeed, The Show Must Go is the most "rock" the Chap have sounded in years, but in typically perverse fashion, many of the guitars and drums that appear on the album were sampled and used in ways that would be impossible in real life. The results are violent, impatient, and abrasive -- the sound of rock imploding on itself. The only advice the Chap can offer future generations comes in the form of the punky apologia "Hey Youth": "Pitch your revolt/There's a market for it." Mordant and timely, The Show Must Go offers malfunctioning anthems for a dysfunctional society. ~ Heather Phares