Chagall Guevara: Wonderfully Peculiar

[Image: Chagall Guevara: Wonderfully Peculiar - Music Express Magazine, April 1991 Page 21 Thumbnail]
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Music Express Magazine
April 1991, Volume 15, Issue 158
© 1991 Rock Express Communications Inc.
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Thanks to Jerry B. Ray Jr.

by Rick Clark

"We wanted to create a wonderfully peculiar sound," states Dave Perkins, Chagall Guevara's lead guitarist/vocalist. Judging from the sound of the band's self-titled debut, they've achieved that result, with an exceptional batch of smartly rendered lyrics set to music that is simultaneously sophisticated and raw.

The genesis of Chagall Guevara took place in Los Angeles--peculiarly enough, in the Christian rock market. Perkins and Lynn Nichols (guitar, vocals) had come together to realize a solo effort for lead singer Steve Taylor, called I Predict 1990. Over the course of the project, the three realized that they would never find satisfaction working within the strictures of that marketplace.

"We felt there had to be a way to use this mechanism to break through to the other side, to the real world," explains Perkins. "I think we all found a great amount of frustration. There were very definite boundaries that, for one reason or another, were reluctant to be pushed."

They began to work together in earnest, and to cut living expenses they transplated themselves to Nashville. "We wanted to start from ground zero and avoid building on the past, so we looked for a city we could afford to live in, and not have to make artistic decisions based on having to meet exorbitant rent," recalls Perkins. "We also needed a scene that we could grow naturally out of. We really acted the underdog, playing cheesy bars in Nashville and around the south."

"Around the second gig we got a record label offer," continues guitarist Nichols, "which kind of took us by surprise, because we were just woodshedding these songs in front of people. That sort of accelerated things, and a buzz started to go around."

Matt Wallace (The Replacements, Faith No More) was chosen to co-produce with the band, and in the spirit of creating something "wonderfully peculiar," the album was done without any of the digital reverbs or samples used on most contemporary albums. Only natural room sounds were used.

"We had worked meticulously on putting the songs together, and we wanted to find a different path in to the recording process," adds Perkins. "We didn't necessarily have the colors painted in, but we knew the record would never be generic-sounding."

Chagall Guevara plays guitar-heavy rock with a predisposition toward dissonance, which makes it a perfect complement to the venom and dark humor of Taylor's provocative railings, which focus on locating shreds of hope in the face of human madness.

"There are bands that can be a little bit too polemic for their own good," Taylor says. "You can easily cross the line from creating art into dispensing propaganda. One of the ways to diffuse that is to keep a little bit of humor in the music."

Of the songs on Chagall Guevara, perhaps the strongest are "The Rub Of Love," a boy's story about a self-centred dad who dumps the family, remarries and has another boy, and "Violent Blue," in which the protagonist laments how cynicism and self-interest have sapped an old friend of ideals, causing him to trade "his peace sign for a finger."

"Even in our dark songs, we set out to keep an optimistic slant on it all," concludes Perkins, "and I think that hope is evident in our presentation."