Luna Park
West LA, California, May 1995.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice do not a Rock Band make...
Live Review by Jon Dunmore © 28 May 1995.

Muted lighting, black walls and a cloudy fuzz surrounding your temples and peripheral vision - yes, Luna Park has a vibe all right: Hell's Kitchen, on standby to cater to North America. Into the morass I rolled; swirling dark sounds and a zeppelin-figured MC sycophanting himself onstage. I didn't like this place, therefore Plan B was put into effect; Plan B being "Get As Drunk As You Can, My Old Son."

...Seven beers into the boring night (or was it eight beers, two bands and endless filibusters to save the freakin' rainforest?), The Chaneys took the stage (well, it wasn't as bold as all that; they sorta slunk around whistling, made a grab for it, got caught taking the stage and were told to put it back).

It was a pity their set was placed amidst this plethora of acoustic slash rock slash artful dodgers all blindly groping for a politically-correct stance on the environment, teenage sex, the indomitability of the human psyche and other riotous issues, as this definitely cast a certain moody air over The Chaneys' decidedly boppy proceedings.

Matt Singer, Dave George and John DeMaria front The Chaneys, vocally and instrumentally. A triple-guitar, triple-vocal concoction that is extremely well done, sometimes to the point of overkill.

The a cappella harmony intro was tighter than a nun's proverbials and woke up at least the first three rows and even some of the fashion-drunk patrons flicking cockroaches off the back wall. Such a pitch-perfect prelude would be termed "soaring harmonies" by the New York Times set; that is only half the story - The Chaneys take their soaring onto "wind-swept," "sugarcoated," "lambchops with garlic," and "The Andrews Sisters Meets The Brady Kids."

With that effervescent sound and the Mama's Boy look to match, one wonders why the band would name itself after Lon Chaney. The epithet is supposed to impart The Chaneys' diversity, as they supposedly emulate The Man of 1000 Faces in a musical milieu. Not sure which dictionary they were reading, but after the first two songs, I could hardly tell where one unmemorable song ended and the next unmemorable song began. Desert Highway, sounding more like America's Ventura Highway than it reasonably should, was one of the few high points in a set overrun by mundanity.

The Chaneys have excellent voices and a proficient playing caliber, yet despite their prowess at those three-part harmonies, there was no spark of relevancy to this exercise. Even though they retain elements of Kansas, Squeeze and Crosby, Stills and Nash, the songs themselves lacked real guts.

While viewing a live band, something has to grab you and shake, till your brain rattles and your adrenaline cascades - nothing to do with a band's proficiency or style. If a band does not inspire more than an ambivalent comment, they have failed. The Chaneys seem sincere in their efforts to entertain (as demonstrated by their wispy attempts at onstage camaraderie), yet all that remained in my round little head was some slippery, mind-warping memory of those syrupy, cheese-and-onion vocals. How much of those same intervals can one endure before they transmogrify into blandness and inspire the visceral lust to grumble raw flesh?

Bassist, Shawn Richkind, was relegated to the unpopular stage position directly behind one of the two gloss-black steel girders which effectively make the Luna Park stage look half its actual size. After all the band arguments, it is always the bassist, keyboardist or percussionist that winds up obscured by these supposedly structural - yet, I suspect, merely pathetically art-unconscious - obstacles.

Drummer, Ed Mongillo, was simply sensational. The fluidity of his playing was a prominent feature and a welcome focus, when the ebullience of the vocalizing threatened to make your eyeballs spin.

A banner above the Luna Park stage proclaimed, The New Music Scene. They must be reading that same frabjulicious dictionary, as I heard nothing "new" tonight - from any band. Rather, The Cyclic Music Scene, as we try to force this rehashed hippie-shit down the present generation's throats, all the while assuring them that it is indeed New and Improved and Guaranteed to help you Meet That Girl.

The Chaneys tout themselves as "the changing face of music," but unless they back up that self-accolade with either Real Change or more tongue-in-cheek, they threaten to come off as pretentious as the art-poets who wail about saving rainforests yet who would never give up their flushing toilet for all the endangered squirrels in Brazil.

I was spirited away from Luna Park in a swamp-green automobile, and to this day I do not know whether it was the sugary-sweet music or the excessive alcohol intake which encouraged me to orally convert the interior to the same color as the exterior...

I give The Chaneys the benefit of the doubt...


Added: 2006, Mar 13