The Chamber Strings – Month of Sundays

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

We are back to the Bobsled Records part of the collection. Honestly, my desire to collect the Bobsled album releases was my prime motivation for acquiring this. To my immense delight, an insert included with the packaging folds out to reveal images of ALL THE BOBSLED RELEASES (as of 2001). What a treat. Now I know that the only albums I am missing are the three Stereo Total albums and the first Chamber Strings long-player. I have listened to Stereo Total, and I am ashamed to admit that even my obsession with Bobsled is not enough to drive me to purchase those discs. Whatever I sampled way back when was very unlistenable. So really, Gospel Morning is the only hole I need to plug. Which brings me full circle to this album. I almost never listen to it, but I should do so more often. I can’t say I love it, but it’s not bad at all. Basically a project for Kevin Junior (neé Gerber) – who had worked with Epic Soundtracks (that’s a person) and Nikki Sudden (that’s his brother), both of Swell Maps – this was the second and final Chamber Strings album. Junior suffered from mental illness and drug addiction; the band broke up and he endured a period of homelessness. After an attempt at a comeback (mostly centered in Akron, Ohio), he died of health issues related to a heart condition in 2016.

What I Think of This Album

Junior was apparently doing a lot of heroin and coke during the making of this album. Not that you can tell. This isn’t Tusk or LAMF. This is an odd mix of orchestral rock, light soul, country, and even lighter ‘70s power pop. It doesn’t always work, but it never doesn’t work, and it sometimes works really well. At my least charitable, I would say it sort of borders on easy listening.

There is some noteworthy stuff on here, though. “Make It Through the Summer” (co-written with Wilco bassist John Stirratt), sounds like really good Badfinger, if Badfinger had spent a lot of time in Memphis. Using Memphis as a launching pad, “For the Happy Endings” is akin to Big Star, if they were really into the Left Banke and Tapestry.

Highlight “Let Me Live My Own Life” could almost be a glam stomper, with some production and arrangement changes. I did not have high hopes for a song called “Sleepy Night,” but it turned out to be a reverb-heavy country tune, almost like the Beechwood Sparks or one of labelmates the Waxwings’ gentler numbers. On the other hand, I had inflated expectations for “Our Dead Friends,” which also turned out to be a gauzy country song, and is pretty excellent and also sounds very much like what the Minus 5 would be churning out ten years down the road.

“The Road Below” worked its syrupy charms on me, and I’m not sure what to think of “It’s No Wonder,” which, by the 5:30 mark, started to wear me into submission and had me thinking, “I might actually  . . . like this?” But seriously, there are five high-quality tracks here, and they boast such a strange mix of influences that I am into it.

Sarge frontwoman Elizabeth Elmore sings on a couple of songs, and Shellac’s Bob Weston plays the trumpet on one.

Junior was from Akron, and he attended the same high school (Firestone) as Chrissie Hynde, the guys from the Black Keys, and members of Devo.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Our Dead Friends” is probably not as good as “Let Me Live My Own Life,” but its title puts it over the top.

Release Date

March, 2001

The Cover Art

The color palette is terrible but everything else works. I like the fonts, the allcaps, and the diamond separating the artist name and album title. The image is decent, maybe even good.

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