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After two decades, Chavez returns to musical world with "Cockfighters" EP

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EP REVIEW: Chavez – Cockfighters (Matador Records) 2017

I love the photo of the Chavez band members on the back of their new EP Cockfighters (their first offering of new musical material since the Clinton era).

In the photo, you see three of the Chavez band members seemingly arguing over beers in some bar, echoing that scene in 1991’s Gen X classic indie film Slacker, where two drunk dudes are arguing over the significance of The Smurfs. As far as we know, the Chavez guys are arguing about the same thing.

Over many beers, Chavez band member James Lo, Matt Sweeney and Clay Tarver argue about Smurfs, Krishna Consciousness or whatever. (Photo by Jesper Eklow)

And so it was in the 1990’s. Post-hardcore bands like Chavez found a niche where their brand of aggressive rock was particularly popular, but was out of style by the time the dimwitted Dubya moved into the White House.

Plus, we were all older, getting suits (at least some of us were) and settling down to a certain degree.

Vocalist/guitarist Matt Sweeney, guitarist Clay Tarver (who works with Mike Judge on the HBO comedy Silicon Valley), bassist Scott Marshall and drummer James Lo were all pretty busy in the intervening 20 years, according to this band profile at PasteMagazine.com.

Or as Sweeney tells Paste of their enduring cult appeal: “Our goal with Chavez (was), it would be cool if 20 years from now those records still mean something. I think any good record is like a house: You can go in there and it has its own rules and you can enjoy and live in it.”

And listening to Ride the Fader and Gone Glimmering after so long, reminds me that Sweeney is right. These records have a certain staying power. And the band's confidence can be felt on these three tracks (turn them all up - annoy your neighbors!) - "The Singer Lied," "Blank in the Blaze" and "The Bully Boys," the final song acting as the EP's single. And just listen to the band gel here, with Lo's drumming just all over the fucking place. He's a maniac (even with a tambourine!), especially alongside Sweeney's shredded vocals and Tarver's tortured guitar leads. All the while, Marshall thunders along, keeping that bottom-heavy portion going and righting the ship.

But it's three songs over the course of about nine minutes. Do the math. 

Produced by John Agnello. It's rock for our time, even if we're grayer and paunchier. Chavez still has it, gang!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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