With precious few champions and their fair share of clueless naysayers, New York quartet Chavez spent three years in the mid ’90s birthing two albums and a couple singles’ worth of glorious melodic bombast before submitting to a hiatus that only breaks occasionally. Grafting massive hooks onto lurching riff shifts that stagger and sway atop window-rattling, off-kilter percussive thwaps, the band met with a bizarre indifference while trying to navigate an ocean teeming with lesser guitar-centric plankton.
The 28 tracks on Matador’s Better Days Will Haunt You, an essential and generous double disc that collects the band’s every last musical scrap—chiefly the full-lengths Gone Glimmering (1995) and Ride the Fader (’96)—don’t showcase wicked innovation. But mold breaking was never Chavez’s real intent. Instead, they bracketed ferocious rhythms with a taut dual-guitar attack that allowed the chiming strings of “Break Up Your Band,” the near balladry of “Unreal Is Here,” and the metallic sheen of “You Must Be Stopped” to tunefully twist molars while cracking skulls. Contemporaries and labelmates like Pavement and Guided by Voices may have garnered the lion’s share of the press and praise, but listening to this spare 90-minute set straight through proves that an insistent power came with being indie rock’s greatest unheralded also-ran.
After touring Ride the Fader, bassist Scott Marshall and guitarist Clay Tarver dedicated themselves to film work, while drummer James Lo pounded skins for various projects around town. Singer-guitarist Matt Sweeney, meanwhile, stared down Billy Corgan’s bald pate long enough to collect a paycheck in Zwan before collaborating with Will Oldham on the Superwolf record. But Chavez are tentatively, temporarily back in business: Known for their blistering live sets—glimpses of which can be had on Haunt You‘s accompanying DVD, with hilarious commentary from Scott’s father, Happy Days creator Garry Marshall—Chavez will be back onstage Saturday night, playing only their third hometown show in the past seven years. Longtime fans and recent converts alike will have a rare opportunity to watch these boys shine through tracks that evoke a not-so-distant era in which “indie” could reference pummeling guitar heroics, instead of the yelpy, overly sensitive pablum that mistakenly gets labeled “rock” these days.
Chavez play the Warsaw Saturday night, warsawconcerts.com