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Review: Chastity Belt Turn Goth Into Wry Feminism on ‘Time to Go Home’

chastity belt
SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: March 23, 2015
Label: Hardly Art

Gather your crystals, because the sophomore album by Seattle post-punk quartet Chastity Belt fluoresces like a neon sign for a $10 palm read. Recorded in a deconstructed cathedral and mixed by legendary Wire guitarist Matthew Sims, Time to Go Home is a throwback to mid-’80s darkwave that gives it an intellectual edge for its resemblance to such a specific moment in classic British new wave. Stirring anthems like “Time to Go Home” and “Drone” put Chastity Belt up there with fellow goth revivalists like Cold Cave, Wax Idols, or even Dum Dum Girls on their last record. All that’s missing are the synths.

Their sound and production quality has matured significantly since their 2013 debut, No Regerts, though it doesn’t impair their signature ennui. Given their background playing the house-party circuit at a small liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest, boredom is a recurring theme. As capricious as any one postgrad (let alone four), Chastity Belt’s lyrics veer from crass realizations like “Everything’s a joke” to repurposing a Sheila Heiti quote for the chorus of “Drone.”

Back in 2011, the band members picked up instruments in the grand punk tradition of “start a band, then learn to play,” so four years later, Time to Go Home shows the quartet’s remarkable growth in technical skill. Lydia Lund shreds up minor chords while Julia Shapiro’s bright, psychedelic riffs quilt into catchy, metallic melodies on “The Thing” and “Why Try.” Gretchen Grimm and Annie Truscott hold down the infrastructure on drums and bass, respectively. Their steady bearings provide the spacious boundaries for intricate guitar play, while Shapiro’s voice echoes as if being broadcast through a finely sculpted tunnel.

Though Time to Go Home does address classic gothic tropes (fog, death, apathy), lyrics like, “He was just another man trying to teach me something” (“Drone”) and “So what? We like to fuck” (“Cool Slut”) invoke a feminist creed as brazen as an early ’90s riot grrrl outfit. Fittingly, the women of Chastity Belt have become chief players in the Seattle punk circle, joining an impressive roster of peers like  Tacocat, Colleen Green, and La Luz after signing to Sub Pop subsidiary Hardly Art (Shapiro also fronts the tongue-in-cheek supergroup Childbirth, whose hilarious “I Only Fucked You as a Joke” was a career highlight for all involved last year). Time to Go Home breaks new personal and political ground for contemporary goth-influenced music as Chastity Belt trades cliche nihilism for proactively feminist post-punk.