Chappaqua Wrestling: “Plus Ultra” Album Review – an adventurous debut


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Rating: 4 out of 5.

“I remember Jake turning around to me once, being like
‘have you heard of Foals?’” smiles Charlie. “From there we just started bonding teaching each other drums and guitar.”

The nomadic duo-turned-four-piece take a leap of faith on their debut offering, Plus Ultra.

Formed in Manchester nearing the end of 2017, Chappaqua Wrestling is a fervent culmination of gritty britpop, ’90s The Sundays shoegaze indie-rock and The Beach Boys‘ lyrical pop ingenuity. Off the back of 2020’s single The Rift that really turned heads (EMI included), they’re finally making bolder moves with a 13-track debut album.

For the original duo of Charlie Woods and Jake Mac, they never wanted to do things by halves. They knew they wanted to step above the noise of the concrete everyday. A true thrust of exploration, Plus Ultra has all the quirks of falling gracefully, as it embarks on setting out societal lows – from social media to student debt – all the while never negating the fact that there may be hope on the horizon.

The frontier’s first stop of Full Round Table encapsulates just that. The dark bass drones looms over bolstered lyrics from world events as they mutter about the ludicrousy of the living crisis, “You and me both need a new direction, In 15 years, will our wages change? while they point fingers at the social media poisoning, “the morning scroll makes your whole day blind,” before shooing it all away with a full flurry of band bravado peering into the half-glass-full mentality, “Yeah, so I don’t care they ignore what we can do / The papers and the cynics aren’t right.”

Wayfinding is another snappy effort, with another decisive bassline lighting the way as we’re fed into an uproar of an affirmation, “Don’t tell me your life ain’t turning ’round / Don’t tell me your life ain’t turning ’round.” The second single to be released for this album, Wayfinding, a technique used by traveler’s over sea to find unmarked routes, has both a connection to the albums’ main thesis of exploration and going against the grain – despite what everyone else tells you. Roughly translated to “Nothing Lies Beyond”, Ne Plus Ultra was a marking used on old maps, often dissuading rookie explorers even bothering to sail out. But many bolder folk merely saw it as an opportunity; a temptation to embark on fresh, untouched waters. A beckoning to go the extra mile – despite what may lay ahead.

Kulture does much of that embarking. A seemingly sombre track of affairs, it takes nods from the likes of The Clash to keep conversations going without claiming to take them over; they only need your country when they need you, as a trudging bass bolt-on reimburses the bands’ ability to come down from the soaring guitars every once in a while. As such, plenty on the record strives for the accessibility upbeat, as Need You No More taps into the tambourine shakes and striking guitar solos, bronzed most prominently by certain Mancunian bands in the ’90s.

Much like The Clash’s endeavours, Chappaqua Wrestling are making good on their desire to be those musicians striving for things that need to be worked out together. A symbiosis between the detachment of social media and how petty arguments can really do no good to both paries, Wide Asleep is every bit a thesis drawn up from the outraged; and is every bit of an angsty anthem for the new generation. In an effort to wake those from their societal slumber, scorching guitar tumbles into, “worry about your present and your future’s fine..” Let’s hope the kids are listening before they’re lost at sea altogether.

While Not In Love hones in on those dreamy shoe-gaze boy-girl duets the likes of Bon Voyage perfected over the years, as newly inducted Coco Varda adds vocals, projecting a whole new tonality to this “classic” indie-rock breakup song.

An adoration for the “cause”, the band see it outright to talk more than ever.

“Talking is our generation’s saviour,” nods Charlie. “Yeah we can’t get a mortgage anymore and we can’t have XYZ that our parents had, but we can still sit down with
each other and have a good time. Amidst it all, those good moments can still really
mean something.

The band themselves are set to carve out their own engraving within the community, as they embark on their own UK headline tour, including a whole host of festivals for Summer Season this year.

Endorsed by a whole plethora of folk from BBC Radio 6Music to Elton John, you do not want to miss them.

Striving for honesty and hope in an otherwise politically polarised world … Chappaqua Wrestling are steering their ship to arena-ready tours with their trailblazing indie-rock.

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