The Chicks sort of get their groove back on ‘Gaslighter’

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY CRISTINA JALERU

The newly minted The Chicks are pulling a phoenix-like move with their eighth stu­dio al­bum, “Gaslighter.” The Dixie Chicks have died, long live The Chicks. In a stun­ning act of dou­ble re-in­ven­tion, the coun­try-pop trio have changed their name and re-emerged from a 14-year hia­tus and per­sonal tur­moil with their new al­bum — one that feels so pri­vate it’s al­most as if you are there, nose-pressed, at steam­ing lead singer Natalie Maines’ win­dows.

“We have to say things when the time is right to say them, and we’ve been quiet for 10 years, so get ready,” band­mate Emily Strayer said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

Maines — who worked through her feel­ings about her di­vorce from ac­tor Adrian Pas­dar cre­atively — com­mits an act of im­mo­la­tion of her mar­riage so rad­i­cal, it bursts through ev­ery lyric on the record.

The Chicks’ two sin­gles from the al­bum, the ti­tle track and “March March,” en­velop one in their up-tempo; the former with its bop-y, al­most play­ful drums, and the lat­ter with its dra­matic, synth-y wa­ter­drop ef­fect that makes one for­get its call to arms in­tent. They burst through with vigor and the prom­ise of an en­er­giz­ing re-in­ven­tion.

In­stead, the 12 tracks are a de­con­struc­tion and re­con­struc­tion of emo­tions that some­times drag with its quiet, bal­lad-heavy set.

It will save many bro­ken hearts along the way, tak­ing this coun­try theme to a new, al­most quan­tum level.

“Gaslighter” was recorded and co-writ­ten with Jack Antonoff, the Grammy-win­ning pro­ducer-artist known for record­ing with pop’s fe­male elite: Tay­lor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Lorde and Sia. Antonoff pushed them to use their core strength, the three-part har­monies backed by fid­dle and banjo, in new ways.

Mar­tie Maguire’s fid­dle play­ing is rhyth­mic on “Texas Man” backed by elec­tric gui­tar from Grammy-win­ner St. Vin­cent. Strayer’s banjo leads a cho­rus of elec­tronic melodies, cello and dou­ble drums on “Sleep at Night.” Their voices, strong, sharp and haunt­ing, blend and build in cin­e­matic ways.

The low-key in­stru­men­tals — lots of strings in “Tights on My Boat,” “Young Man” and “Set Me Free,” the touch of the vi­olin in “Ju­lianna Calm Down,” a dash of church or­gan in “My Best Friend’s Wed­dings” — and stripped-down vo­cals make for a cu­ri­ous Schrödinge­r’s cat of a record. For the most part, the feel­ings of the lyrics are tam­pered down by the mu­sic: the anger is there but it’s not there, the sad­ness is there but it’s not there. The Chicks have worn their heart on the sleeve, but they’re afraid to move on and have fun.

Af­ter all, they’ve all been burned be­fore.

AP

Mar­tie Maguire (from left), Emily Strayer and Natalie Maines of The Chicks are pho­tographed for the re­lease of their lat­est al­bum “Gaslighter.”

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