In many ways, Chains of Love’s seven-song debut, Strange Grey Days is just another retro-revival record in a long and bustling line. Listening to the girls of Chains coo in close approximations to The Shangri-Las, or at least The Continental Co-Ets, more modern bands like The Black Belles, Vivian Girls, and Those Darlins come to mind. All combine a garage rock sensibility with some serious girl-group lust. Chains of Love go the extra mile for “Lies Lies Lies,” riffing off an incredibly similar song in theme and feel: The Knickerbockers’ “Lies,” once covered by Nancy Sinatra and, more recently, The Black Belles themselves. Far be it for me to wrongly imply that people stopped lying after a certain decade, but phew does that one note sound dusty.
Fuzzed out and flavored with the mothballs of yesteryear, Strange Grey Days is still an interesting and haunting case of nostalgia. Chains of Love walk their memory of the hey-day of ’60s girl pop through the distorted mirrors of surf rock and ’70s punk, diluting the distortion down into a hardly more than atmospheric haze. The boundaries blur slightly, like with a vaguely salt-soaked, Eagles-esque guitar solo towards the end of “He’s Leaving With Me” or the organ noodling in “Lately” that hums along prominently like a less aggressive “96 Tears,” but the tunes always return to an almost impenetrable pop, vaguely witchy in its ability to bounce prying fingers from its doors.
For sheer cauldron ooze, the best number on Strange Grey Days is the album’s namesake and closing track. You can almost see the long nails wiggling mystically in front of your irises as the eerie, melancholic, yet beautiful number unfolds. While the rest of the album plays with fairly straight pop trends from the ’60s, “Strange Grey Days” dips its toe into a moody, psychedelic pool, paradoxically sounding original and modern as well.
Chains of Love’s pitch-perfect take on ’60s psych-pop somehow make them stand out from the crowded ooh-shang-a-lang choir. Maybe it’s ‘cause the band’s so well-studied, not just grasping at straws, but pursuing the wasn’t-it-better-then something that vintage vinyl’s vixens always effortlessly embody. Short, sweet, and edgy without being rough, Strange Grey Days is the perfect soundtrack to an afternoon daydream, be it sunny or shadowed, for its lullaby quality if not its stark originality.