Once you master the art of jokes, good things start happening. Your blood pressure lowers, your cheeks maintain a steady glow, and people have sex with you. Chastity Belt understand this. Their Facebook page lists their interests as “sports, college, beer, science, math” and their influences as “sex, violence, nickelback.” Their debut full-length is drunk-typoed No Regerts, like a Clueless-style shorthand for “no regurgitations” or a misspelling of a mantra used by skydivers and people with shaved heads. But, as with all good comedy, No Regerts is actually saying something too. In between pelvic-thrusting sexual innuendo and self-mockery, Chastity Belt filter feminist theory, cultural commentary and general intellectual bad-assery.
Album opener “Seattle Party” begins with Julia Shapiro wryly slurring “Your tattoos are so deep/they really make me think,” so right off the back you’re feeling self-conscious—even if you’re bare-skinned. This is where Chastity Belt’s subtle superior hypnotism comes in. Sometimes they mock themselves, but usually they’re mocking some unnamed other, and against your better judgement, you kind of want to be that other. What Chastity Belt says goes and you can’t wait for them to tell you you’re doing it wrong.
While the album’s lyrical content thrives in forever-catchy come-ons (“Pussy Weed Beer”), the repetitively ironic (“Healthy Punk”), and eating chips and dip (“Nip Slip”), No Regerts holds impressive weight because of the music itself. Each track diverges slightly from the previous one, making garage-grunge and dream-pop-in-drag shack up together, with entertaining effect. Shapiro’s voice is thick and opaque, like tar or pea soup; it could probably make a reading of an AutoZone commercial sound like a punk alien riot.
When the band takes a break from doing their knee-jerk nerd dance on “Black Sail” and “Happiness,” it still feels like they’re smirking only now they’re trying to hide it. The guitars become lighter, almost weightless, and Shapiro jails her snark in a more controlled vocal range. But if those business casual tracks make you yearn for more aggressive Chastity Belt camp, No Regerts closes with “Giant Vagina.” Not only does it seem to be told from the perspective of a massive vagina, the song sounds like the final battle of a video game, with jaunty keys slapped around in a midst of artificial-sounding guitars; the kitsch is your weapon and your competitor is massive genitalia.
Chastity Belt don’t really care if you like them, but they’re pretty sure you do. As far as self-deprecating, audience-mocking comedy goes, No Regerts is in an open mic night on a new level. The audience is hemming and hawing and yakking up disapproving snot balls, but they’re mentally humming along. Chastity Belt isn’t the band 2013 wants—it’s the band 2013 needs.