Chapterhouse – Chronology (Cherry Red)

Chapterhouse – Chronology (Cherry Red)

A band formed in 1987, at a time when the world wide web was possibly a horror script being considered by the likes of Stephen King (maybe). This was a pitch that never made its way further than the waste-paper basket (in my mind, at least). Around this time a young band from Reading were in the process of taking their first tentative steps onto the music scene. One where a sea of distorted guitars, wah-wah pedals and subsequently amp stacks, created this sea of sound that would be termed shoegazing. This band rehearsed for well over a year, before finally committing these sounds to a demo tape so that it would find its way to the newly formed Dedicated record label. Dedicated was to release the band’s first EP, Freefall, which was soon to be followed by the Sunburst EP. Released in 1990, Freefall’s cover was to feature Andrew Sherriff, 335 guitar in hand, his long hair something that came to identify early shoe gazers, crowning this frontman.

The band were Chapterhouse and would record two studio albums, Whirlpool in 1991 and Blood Music two years later. I was to see this band live on a number of occasions, following the release of both these. Listening to the band again, it’s like slipping on that favourite pair of denims, and discovering they still fit as comfortably as they did in 1991 (I can dream, can’t I?). Following their split in 1994, in 1996 label Dedicated released Roundabout, a double album compilation, which featured 38 tracks highlighting the band’s career. Sony was to release a 15-track best-of compilation in 2007. But in May 2023 Cherry Red provides this band with the compilation they deserve, giving fans a 79-track, 6-CD collection, which has been curated by the band themselves and includes 20 previously unreleased recordings, including written interviews with the band, along with memorabilia and imagery from the group’s own archive.

For Chapterhouse fans, this is The Holy Grail, but we should note this is not just for fans of the band that this release may find listeners. I like to think that American artist Sophie B Hawkins, might have been listening to the band’s third single ‘Pearl’ when she was seeking inspiration for her debut single ’Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover’. Only a year after the band released their single, Hawkins released ‘Damn…’, hotly pushed by her record label Columbia and found fans I’m sure further afield than her perceived demographic. I like to think that Sophie was a closet shoegazer in the early ’90s. Of course, I know Chapterhouse were probably influenced by Led Zeppelin’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’. But whichever way this story finds its true calling, it’s another tale of just how music influences music, that I’m glad Ed Sheeran proved his court case against the heirs of songwriters for Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’.

As previously mentioned the band’s two released albums find a place here, along with B-sides, remixes and demos, 20 of these being previously unreleased. I have assembled these tracks, aside from the boxset and have found that listening to them is every bit as engaging as anything the band had released. 85 minutes, or as I see it, a double album that would stand alongside the product recorded in its day, or even now. If anything, I found the final number ‘Crazy Kane’, might have influenced, or been influenced by the music of Gomez, such is its swagger. Otherwise, these could be numbers of a later Chapterhouse, rather than their raucous beginnings, although the much-lauded track ‘Die Die Die’, where nearly 12 minutes of hard noise were played with a simple, if not grinding riff, is also included on disc 5. The same goes for the once-withdrawn (for copyright reasons) Blood Music: Pentamerous Metamorphosis, which has now been remastered to clear these issues. Having bought Bloodmusic in 1993, where the original Pentamerous Metamorphosis was included, this original recording is a prize in my record collection, albeit now slightly shorter than the remastered version. If you were about in the early to mid-90s or perhaps wished you were, this very reasonably priced collection of tunes is a must. These recordings document a band’s history during these burgeoning times in indie music, and I would hope that once a shoegazer, then always a shoegazer.

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