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Into the Thames Valley

Are Reading's answer to Spacemen 3, CHAPTERHOUSE, Berking up the wrong tree with their 'symphonic' distorted guitars and long hair? No, says SIMON WILLIAMS. Picture: Tim Jarvis

Is Elvis Presley really dead? Is the howling hound dog really digging for bones six feet under? The chaflering Chapterhouse remain unconvinced.

They've heard about the South London restaurant proprietor who likes to light a few Prez torch song a They know all about Dread Zeppelin, and The Rookin' Sheik with his quiff-shaped turban, and Elvis McPresley and his quiffy kilt, and quite possibly Taffy Presley with his blue suede leeks. Hell, what more proof do they need? One ofthem has to be the real McCoy.

It was really alarming to see Him performing in the '70s," gossips singer Andrew. "Having been such a strapping figure in his younger days, the weird thing was there was this guy who was grotesque in all aspects of humanity, wiping the sweat off with handkerchiefs and women were still grabbing them-they still wanted him!"

"Yeah, he was a dripping lump of lard strppped into a silversuit," recalls seoond singer Stephen, pleasantiy. "And women were fainting over him! That's the way forward, lads..."

IF THE most integral part of reliving the Pelv's success is to emulate his infamous bloated physique, Chapterhouse are going the right way about it Andrew, Stephen, banist Russell and guitarist Simon are living it up in a swanky Italian food loint, their tastebuds being attended to by a waiter who looks and sounds like Russ Abbot, yet who claims to be Yugoslavian and a mate of Laibach.

It all fits, ridiculously. Since creeping out of Reading in 1987, the quintet has been cursed with a post-Spacemen 3 tag. The evidence? The bands share the same management, Chapterhouse's eariy gigs were supports with the Spacies and, Christ, the first time I heard Qf Ohapterhouse was at Sonic Boom's pad, where the singer languidly enthused about the youngsters' potential and his plans to have them on his own Bop-A-Sonic label. "Mere coinciciences!" scream the Reeding ramblers.

"We seem to have a doomy image attached to us'. admits Andrew. "Because of the long hair, people expect us to be like the Spacemen or Loop. But until we supponed Spacemen 3 in Reading, none of us except me hed even heard of them! So we haven't been influeneed by them at all."

Absolutely not. Far front dope- driven drones and one-chord wonders, Chapterhouse voice a more vivacious opinion. Their first single, 'Falling Doom', pulled together the ragged and the baggy in a wah-wah driven frenzy. And the new45, 'Sunburst', is even better, a sublime meshing of half-muttered observations and abandoned guitar bursts which could melt an ice cube at 1,000 paces. It cenveniently stakes the Chappies' place, tucked in neatly behind Ride, at the forefront of 1990's savage-but-sensual noisepack.

"A Iot of music at the moment has been lowered to the level of 'Can you get down to it or go mental to it?'" says Stephen, "but ultimately, like all good art, we're trying to provoke emotions with our music. I think effects pedals are very good at creating an atmosphere. And to create symphonic chord progressions and stick them through effects creates a mood and emotlon which is harder to do than programme a sequencer. It demands more on a songwrlting level."

The past 11 months have emphasised the potential cemmemial viability of frazzled pop. Musical ability is finally winning out against misinterpreted credibility The indie ghetto is being blasted. And Chapterhouse know exactly what they were doing when they went for the bursting piggy banks of BMG's Dedicated label.

"We get certain benefits from being on Dedicated," acknowledges Stephen, glancing at the plush surroundings of this freebie lunch. "But they're not dodgy, they're just handy. And we're not having to compromise musically, so who gives a f-?"

"The indle chart doesn't mean much any more because it's full of Top 40 records," snarls Andrew. "The majors have mellowed out and become a lot more understanding because the indies showed them how to treat bands well. But the indies have done the opposite-they've expanded to the point where they're working in the same dog-eat-dog way as the majors and signing bands for ludicrous deals like seven albums with no money for the rest of their lives. We dldn't want t oend up in any fictional indie wasteland."

Chapterhouse ouviously have their heads screwed on. Safely placing all their carefree instincts on vinyl and on stage, in conversation they're full of caretul opinions and sensible realism.

"Everybody wants to be impressed immediately nowaday's," announces Stephen. "They don't wanna sit and listen to a band and look for subtleties. They want something new or different that's gonna change their lives, but they're not thinking, 'Is that good music or not it's very difficult nowadays to have t career that lasts moret han three years in the pop world, unless it's based solely upon the music.

"It's moving more and more towards instant gratification. If bands don't make it on their first album then people lose interest. But we don't wanna be a quickie, we want to be a long slowscrew. I think I'd be more pleased with being appreciated in ten years time than with having a thousand tasteless people running after us now."

"That's why we're not loyal to the indie scene," explains Andrew. "It's been perverted to such a level you can't take it seriously, it's irrelevant it should boil down tothe music ratner than any 'scene' or 'happening'. Anything can bea 'scene': if farting-in-a-bathtub-and-mic-ingiit-up came out and were the happening thing everyone would get into them, wouldn't they?"

"Actually,"mutters Russell, "It's not far off that now..."

Orignally appeared in NME 15 Dec 1990. Copyright © NME