ALBUM REVIEW: Chat Pile, God's Country
On a recent episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Joe and fellow comedian Tom Segura were having a conversation about the homeless population in Los Angeles and how “out of hand” the issue is getting. In a rather disgusted tone, the two were speaking about how the unhoused have tents, dressers and vans set up that are considered their property by the state. Clearly bothered by this, Segura says “If you were to try and move that or take that –” with Rogan finishing his thought “You’d get arrested. Hilarious. But they wouldn’t arrest you if you shot somebody. Maybe you should just go shoot the homeless people”. Without skipping a beat, Segura quipped back with “I like your ideas”. Acts of cruelty are doled out in the United States indiscriminately, but you get a higher spot in this violent lottery when you have less than the next person. This podcast clip really disturbed me because here are these two working class guys who were once broke, maybe one friend’s couch away from the street. Now here they were, smoking cigars and promoting homeless erasure on the biggest podcast on Earth. It will never not be insane to see how quickly Americans will sell each other out for comfort and sightliness.
Chat Pile is a sludge rock four-piece out of Oklahoma that seeks to portray, but not make sense of, this human suffering. Their debut album, semi-ironically titled God’s Country, could have only been made more accurate if they allowed @xiu_shoegaze to design the cover. Throughout the nine tracks here, the band alludes to different ugly events like mass shootings, suicides and toxic relationships without being too on the nose. However, that doesn’t mean the lyrics don’t cut to the chase, because they definitely do. The opening tonesetter “Slaughterhouse”, likens the rat race we consider capitalism to cattle decapitation. “Everyone’s head rings here / And there is no escape / There’s no motherfucking exit” lead singer Raygun Busch wails out, really selling the concept. “HAMMERS AND GREASE!” he repeats, bringing to mind a ceaseless line of work until old age and death.
Going back to the Rogan and Segura discussion, “Why” literally asks the question, over and over again, “Why?! Why do people have to live outside?!” As Raygun says, we have the resources, we have so many empty buildings with heat and no one in them, so why? Why do people have to live outside? The issue in that podcast discussion was the intense lack of empathy; it was just viewing the unhoused as an eyesore to drive past in an air conditioned luxury car. From a musical standpoint, I am obsessed with how the heavy, chugging metal guitars allow him to make his points before coming back to express his anger. The mix of hardcore aggression with industrial drums and commanding vocals lays a strong foundation for songs with immediate purpose, especially the one’s addressing gun violence. Whether it be the shockingly real “Anywhere”, the thrashy “Wicked Puppet Dance” or the bank robbery slam-dance of “The Mask”, the group is able to come across as fear-inducing.
This album truly offers no breaks, only false calms before the storm. The most disturbing song in my opinion is “I Don’t Care If I Burn”. It’s reminiscent of Have a Nice Life or Nick Cave at their darkest, quietly creeping through the black. This one is a mysterious tale of revenge, where the protagonist is walking around, speaking to a person who they want to die, “you may not see me now, but motherfucker I see you” he says. He continues “So I’m coming now, coming round back, everyone’s asleep”, implying, with the title, that he is going to burn a house down with a family in it. It ends with a loud scream.
The closing “grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg” is a bit more typical sonically, but is stretched out to 9-minutes with all these spaces in between where we see a man on heroin who is about to commit suicide. The song title is silly, but the subject matter could not be more deadly serious. It reminds me of 4chan boards, where people with cartoon frog avis goad other anonymous users to die or kill for their lols. Lyrically, we are put directly in the mind of this person who is so deeply unsure of themself, “I’m ok, fine, serious. LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!!!! Shut up.” As we get further in, it gets more instrumentally doomy and hopeless. To end on a suicide feels utterly fitting to the whole thesis of the album, there's no room for happy endings. Rather than get fed to the meat grinder, get shot by a stranger, be burned down in a house, be collateral damage in a desperate robbery or hurt someone else, this person is almost taking back their autonomy with the act. If killing oneself is the best conclusion a person can hope for living in “God’s country”, then we need to start doing a lot better fast. This can’t be it, can it?
If you or someone you know is having suicidal ideation, call: (800) 273-TALK