click here for more
Album Review
Diaper Island

Diaper Island
by Chad VanGaalen

Sub Pop

Review Date
6th September 2011
Reviewed by
Justin Paul

Chad VanGaalen seems to be a talented and slightly bizarre Canadian. The curiously-named Diaper Island is VanGaalen’s fifth solo album in seven years (including one released under the alias Black Mold) and here, as with all of his albums so far, he writes, produces and plays virtually all of the instruments himself. He creates the artwork for his albums and is also admired as a cartoonist/animator (check out the twisted video for ‘Molten Light’ on YouTube: Nickelodeon is unlikely to come knocking….). In between times, for good measure, he has produced two well-received albums from fellow Calgarians, Women.

While his brooding and inventive Soft Airplane (2008) featured a warble not dissimilar to another reclusive compatriot, Neil Young, VanGaalen drops both his voice and electronic glitchery on Diaper Island. As such, this album has been heralded as his stripped-down, ‘rock’ record. Certainly, ‘Burning Photographs’ and album centrepiece ‘Replace Me’ chug along in a style reminiscent of New Zealand’s own indie heroes while the Beck-ish lunacy of ‘Freedom for a Policeman’ and ‘Can You Believe It?’ jolt the listener, but I, for one, want more such shocks. As a musician who has made his name through idiosyncrasy, there is a distinct lack of quirk in Diaper Island. Some will say that the musician is caught between rock and a hard place: where many will laud an artist’s ‘back-to-basics’ approach, others will bemoan the lack of experimentation that caught their ear all those years ago. Nonetheless, while I am loathe to compare other tracks to the contents one would normally expect from a diaper, too many songs float through the listener’s mind on the back of VanGaalen’s singing-in-a-silo vocals. On a suitably bald note, Diaper Island ends with ‘Shave My Pussy’, the least SPCA of songs since Bob Dylan’s ‘The Cat’s in the Well’.

Ordinarily, one shouldn’t judge an album by its cover, but in this case it’s apt: Diaper Island is indistinct and muddled. VanGaalen and wife, Sara, (she of track #5) have recently built a new house and had a second child, and as such, Diaper Island might represent a safe, domestic harbour of an album in an otherwise chaotic career.


see more