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Chimp | Lowfer (Slow Records)
Oddball Brighton sextet Chimp have been slogging their guts out as almost the city's resident support band for many a moon now. Seemingly destined to tread water forever - without ever releasing a record - it is greatly heartening that they have now won a modest deal that their perseverance and charming music deserves. A limited edition 7"single aside, 8-track mini-album 'Lowfer' is the first fruit of their studio labours, and an absolute delight of peculiarly British pastoral pop. They can rock when they wish, as brand new, harder edged material aired at recent (headlining!) hometown shows has proven, but, on 'Lowfer', it's very easy does it, as the title explicitly suggests. The strident strings of Lizzy Carey and Rebecca Waterworth usher in opener and single, So Joe, giving way to principal songwriter Laurence Collyer's gentle folk vocal, riddled with mock disinterest as he croons on about getting "stuck on the outskirts of Lulworth," trying to make his way back home. What follows over the next twenty minutes or so is entirely expected, but it is interesting to note what a tough backbone props up such acoustic whimsy, courtesy of rhythm section Stuart Ridley and Paul Wadsworth. As Pete Jackson's keys prance cheerily around the wafting acoustic arrangements, these boys hold everything together with great aplomb. The undoubted highlights here are Neighbours, which highlights the conflicting tastes and volumes of CD players in adjacent dwellings, and the quite magnificent The Greenest Marinescape Ever, where Collyer and Carey duet like a bedsit Richard and Linda Thompson against an unfeasibly pretty and haunting melody. It's gorgeous, and really should be lifted as a single, if only to showcase 'Lowfer' to territories still oblivious to Chimp's off-kilter beauty. As I say, this is a very British quiet noise, so I wonder how they may fare overseas? The most obvious touchstones being Belle And Sebastian or Badly Drawn Boy - both of whom are making ground in scarily large markets - it may yet prove a doddle for our simian chums. Such winsome musings are not for everybody, but I for one revel in the quaint and dainty, dinky and delicate. To nick a line from Slow Boat "Sad songs come from an old guitar / and I'm on fire."

Tom Sheriff
August 2002