The crazy-fun world of CHAI’s new album PINK, reviewed by Kez Cochrane
CHAI have enough energy and enthusiasm for everyone, and then some. Blending cute, kawaii sensibilities with punk attitude and a high-octane assortment of sounds, they offer kaleidoscopic sonic escapism from the get-go.
Opening with an onslaught of cowbells, clashing cymbals, and rapidly chanted vocals, ‘Hi Baby’ instantly draws you into their vibrantly saccharine and synthetic cosmos in which the Japanese four-piece deliver mantras of self-love, dismiss beauty myths, address modern dating, and sing about the peculiar world of Hello Kitty culture. Signed to the ever-wonderful Heavenly Recordings, CHAI pertain an inimitable capacity to fluctuate effortlessly between the funkiest slap-bass grooves and the most cacophonous, ear-splitting bursts of noise, their vocals ranging from mellifluous harmonies to ferocious, powerful roars.
Abounding in jovial vitality ‘PINK’, the band’s debut release, effervesces with this innate essence of self-acceptance and empowerment that CHAI encompass, channelled throughout the record with a refreshing and infectious buoyancy. Standout single ‘N.E.O’ sees them confront beauty norms, embracing unconventionality as they cry, “Isn’t being “boring” weird? / Isn’t having the same face weird?” accompanied by urgent rhythms that pulse with crystalline velocity.
‘Horechatta’ entertainingly details an infatuation with gyoza dumplings, conveyed via dreamy, piercing harmonies, sauntering rhythms and glistening basslines, delivered with an undeniable twinkle in the eye. The following track ‘Fried’ continues in a similar vein as they praise “the nourishment of cooking” and the importance of this aspect with regard to self-care, declaring “fried = soul” repeatedly throughout the track. It’s this enchantingly bizarre take on life that CHAI purvey that makes them so utterly disarming, as they craft the perfect balance of wit, sweetness and dynamism, complete with a glossy pop sheen.
Pop culture influences abound not only in the subject matter of their tracks but also in the different sonic inspirations that are tangible throughout, oscillating between genres and defying expectation with effortless ease. There’s a distinct grunge-rock edge to ‘Boyz Seco Men’ that sees CHAI express dissatisfaction with the strange nature of modern dating, typically confronting this with their playfully candid attitude.
On the closing track ‘She Is Kitty’ they sing about the fetishisation of cuteness in the cult world of Hello Kitty featuring gloriously funky riffs and delivered with this youthful, innocent demeanour that CHAI presents throughout the record. A charmingly dulcet and distorted debut offering, ‘PINK’ resolutely establishes CHAI as ones to watch very closely, and whatever comes next is sure to be exciting.
-Words by Kez Cochrane