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Chester French

"Love the Future" (Interscope) -- 4 STARS

By Joshua J. Kearney, Crimson Staff Writer

Chester French’s much anticipated debut album, “Love the Future,” is a tour de force scarcely seen in contemporary pop music. The duo of Maxwell C. Drummey ’07 and D. A. Wallach ’07 string their audience along a tangled thread of kitchsy singles, Beach Boy flavored ballads, musical interludes, and even some country twang over the course of the record. And while this errant diversity could otherwise be more than a little off-putting, Chester French pulls it off (though not without a few stumbles) with a gusto that’s sure to recall a Beatles album or two for the historically-minded listener.

The eclectic composition of “Love the Future” is both its boon and its bane. It reveals Chester French as more than just mass produced musicians, but occasionally this multifarious bent also leads to painful failures. Such missteps, however, are generally eclipsed by the stronger songs that surround them and the disc’s overall composition, which makes its 13 tracks fly by in a pleasurable breeze.

“Beneath the Veil,” which opens simply with a brisk bluegrass guitar rhythm and Wallach’s voice dancing on the lower limits of its register before giving way to lighter fare replete with handclaps and a tambourine, is a prime example of experimental success. One part “Rocky Raccoon,” one part “Walk the Line,” “Beneath the Veil” is a joy to listen to, both for its genre-bending appeal and for its own musical merit.

“Fingers” also succeeds in these same respects. Sounding more like a Beatles ballad than anything else, the track integrates staccato piano chords, a marching beat, and some impressive orchestration to give it a simultaneously fresh and dated feel. While the lyrics are a bit more hit or miss (“And the fingers of your mind / Have wrapped around my spine / And made me feel so blind”), the retro yet contemporary feel is more than engaging enough.

“The Jimmy Choos” also straddles the line between pop past and present, channeling the sunny beach sound and lyrical levity of the Beach Boys. More mainstream than the aforementioned gems, the song adeptly combines all the electronic glitz of modern pop tracks with dated but appropriate melodic riffs from Drummey and company.

Standout tracks like “C’mon (On My Own)” and breakout single “She Loves Everybody” don’t quite fit the modern/retro bill of much of the rest of the album, but rather serve as bookends with more obvious mainstream appeal. Lyrically, they’re playful and intelligent, while musically their sort of the standard fare, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing on an album this diverse.

The only real failures on the album are “Bebe Buell” and “Country Interlude,” although there are some tracks that are certainly less mentionable than those above. “Bebe Buell,” while perhaps the most lyrically light—“This ain’t groupie love ’cause you mean so much to me / You’re my Bebe Buell, you’re my Puerto Rican Pamela Lee”—is nonetheless overwrought in production, featuring an insipid chorus and piano line to match, not to mention the overwhelming presence of Drummey’s distorted guitar. “Country Interlude” just never really finds a voice, despite being the longest track on the album, instead meandering between instrumentalism, electronic noise, distraught and disparaged crooning, and moments of levity.

“Love the Future” is as much a throwback to the past as it is a landmark for the future. Chester French succeed, however, in marrying the two into a happy and pleasurable medley that leaves little to be desired. “Love the Future” is intelligent with being pretentious, facile without seeming campy, and eclectic without being scattered. In its individual tracks and the composition of the album as a whole, it strikes a balance that, more often than not, works at both engaging and gratifying the listener, and rarely completely misses the mark.

—Staff writer Joshua J. Kearney can be reached at kearney@fas.harvard.edu.

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