Welcome to Iowa Meta-Rock City, home of Sweet Chariot, whose new album 1985—like Nigel Tufnel’s custom amplifiers in Spinal Tap—goes “one more” than Van Halen’s iconic album 1984. And in a humorous nod to 1984’s iconic cover art, 1985 features Sweet Chariot’s Jack Isleib as an angel sitting beside a pack of cigarettes. Sweet Chariot is an Iowa City heavy meta band (get it?), featuring Brandon Gassman (Kita, Cop Bar) and Zachary Westerdahl (Ten Grand), and the aforementioned Isleib (Breakdance).
These three knuckleheads together represent 40 years of headbanging, drink spilling and Gabe’s beer garden brouhahas. The crunchy guitar riffs and aggravated assault of Isleib’s drumming recall well the broadest rock flourishes of the 1980s.
“Lobster Bib” echoes Jane’s Addiction’s “Mountain Song” and “B-Team Baracus” has a Van Halen-worthy synth intro. “We Are The Pizza” sounds like a track left off Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation for being too peppy.
But isn’t music, after all, mostly about music? Scientists don’t even know why people like music. To the extent it means anything, it points to other music and comments on it, ridicules it, revivifies it. Sweet Chariot does all that, slouching on the shoulders of giants, making noisy sub-two-minute Fabergé eggs of simultaneous parody and homage. They’re having a laugh, but there’s some catchy, tuneful pop lurking amongst the monster riffs. There’s more exuberance than jokiness, more Guided By Voices than Weird Al Yankovic.
It’s all over in under 12 minutes, with “Lobster Bib” clocking in as the longest tune at one minute and 55 seconds. You could spend all night at Gabe’s damaging your hearing listening to someone more long-winded and po-faced try to convince you they’re serious artists. Or you can just play 1985 over and over. The latter will be more fun.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 178