Chas Palmer-Williams, the former singer of successful seven-piece ska punk band, Lightyear has released his debut solo album American Smile, British Teeth.
So what can we expect? Lets cast our minds back to the turn of the 21st century, Lightyear were touring their 2001 album Call of the Weasel Clan, playing around 300 gigs a year, hitting Reading Festival, joining Steve-O from Jackass on a sell out tour of the UK.
Releasing their second album Chris Gentleman’s Hairdresser and a Railway Book Shop in 2003, it felt like the band was really hitting its stride, the influences that so clearly shaped their debut album, be it Less Than Jake or Reel Big Fish, were left by the wayside, and the band developed their own unique sound, taking their music into darker, more introspective territory, while still maintaining their rawkus energy.
Stepping out from the seven-man creative process that produced Lightyear’s albums, Chas was faced with the daunting task of filling the silence of an empty page all by himself.
On Track 5, ‘Recite It, you Scum,’ Chas sings “Someone once asked me, what I really do for a living,” “I was in a mildly successful 90s ska punk band, where ya been man, where ya been?” This snippet of conversation puts Chas’s reckless time with Lightyear way in the past placing it as an almost unrecognisable far away memory. The glamour, fame and rock and roll lifestyle is replaced by a more realistic and relatable image of the life of a musician: “An open mics done, pay for flights out, look to be queueing in an EasyJet queue” and “I’ve heard the word pension, I’ve heard the word retire.”
Chas’s outlook isn’t the only thing that has changed, American Smile, British Teeth, gives the impression of a live performance throughout. Stripped down and personal, Chas dons an acoustic guitar for the majority of the tracks, taking on the singer-songwriter persona. “You’d Worry a Nest of Rats,” shows that Chas isn’t afraid to punctuate his music with pauses and empty space as he sings “She sits on a bench with a thirst to quench, whisky’s what she cries”.
Chas’s influences seem to be taken more from the likes of My Morning Jacket over any ska punk act. ‘Jager for you, for me for maldehyde,” among others, sees Chas joined by his band while WWGTDWDAD places Chas at the piano, where a pedal note is held underneath Chas’s vocals, “My short term memory is left in tatters, I’m starting to pay attention to mortgage matters.” and “Nights out, more earplugs than drugs.”
Stripping down his sound has allowed Chas’s lyrical prowess to shine through, stringing together images and situations from touring, sometimes addressing himself deprecatingly under his own breathe “You’re still OK, I’m a musician, in the loosest sense of the word,” and taking on the persona of a payphone in ‘Absolutely some regrets.’
Chas’s debut solo album is an unexpected gem. Maturity, responsibilities, paying rent, slowing down metabolisms, American Smile, British Teeth refuses to hide behind a glossy and half-assed facade.
Written by Josh Budd