Chad VanGaalen

Single Review: Chad VanGaalen – Samurai Sword (Flemish Eye/Sub Pop Records)

Photo Credit: Marc Rimmer

Most people would find a DIY home piping job mundane, not giving the pipes a second thought. In fact, in quotidian situations the pipes would be driven to the local recycling centre, or dropped into someones skip on the sly afterwards (depending on your background). Now, either Canadians really are the most interesting kind of people (If i’m taking BJ Snowden’s words literally), or (more accurate) Chad VanGaalen is on yet another creative high (after all he also animates, runs a record label, and got signed to a second label in 2004, solely based on an album recorded in his basement).

On this new track of his, he puts his leaky pipes on musical trial, using them as instruments. Each resembling a different pitch. The saying ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’ is personified here, as the groundwork to this new track is entirely built from these elements. The above complementing his breezy guitar work to a tea. Unvarnished and recorded in straight to the point simplicity, the number doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at a mere two minutes (could almost be criminal), but it is bound to be stuck in your head, begging to be repeated all day.

No, it’s not an unimaginative two minutes either (like the slump of short songs on your radio currently – why is that a trend right now?). This one is surreal, sticking out like a sore thumb. Lyrically exactly what it says on the tin. A signposting, in idiosyncratic style, about none other than a Samurai Sword. VanGaalen’s protagonist tracks his adventures in trying to find this Samurai Sword he has lost. There are all these whimsical nuanced details about being lent this prestigious relic from a friend. With the plea of needing urgent help in finding it so he can get on with his mission. Detailed enough to describe all the slight damages, it can sometimes feel like a humorous ebay listing. Sure, it verges on the novelty record side in it’s kookiness, but if it really is ‘novelty’, It’s up there with the best of them, with hints of LSD fuelled concept records from the 1960s. Especially in it’s music video, animated impressively by VanGaalen himself, where he incorporates an extended introduction section including a more tripped out psychedelic phone conversation, backed by pan piper flute, extending the track into even more peculiar territory. It’s refreshing to hear an artist have this much fun with their work, rather than taking themselves too seriously. I can say now that i’m happy I caught this guy on a KEXP session after binging their videos a few years back , and not stopping since. Don’t let this one slip your radar. Especially if you’re a fan of artists like Mac Demarco, who I could place bets on having taken influence from VanGaalen. In my eyes he’s just a bit underrated, at least here in the UK. This is a sweet little tune.

This is the lead single to Chad VanGaalen’s new LP (with the quite wonderful title) ‘The World’s Most Stressed Gardener‘, set for release on Friday Mar 19 2021 via Sub Pop Records. It can be pre ordered here: https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/chad-vangaalen/world-s-most-stressed-out-gardener/lp