Dolph Chaney
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Dolph Chaney

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1987 | INDIE

Chicago, Illinois, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1987
Solo Alternative New Wave

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"January Album Reviews - Bloody Red Baron"

Chaney is a pop genius in the vein of Nick Frater, Scott Gagner and Steve Stoeckel, writing fresh melodic anthems that send you out of the theater humming. “Nice” starts out like a Hit Factory baby with pure pop craftsmanship, and “Cool In the Sunshine,” with its Hushdrops-like adjacent chords, belongs in a musical.

The men and women who crafted the American musical during the depression knew the value of memorable hooks, and so does Chaney. “Bad Bet” has Stars Explode type power. The anthemic “Critic (the Mirror)” goes full throttle. It’s the kind of melody you store in your brain to battle ear worms, as is the closer, “The First Time Back.”

Big Stir’s packaging continues to excel, making the most of the CD format with exciting visuals and an upscale feel. They make the most of their real estate, as albums used to during vinyl’s heyday. - Mike Baron / S.W. Lauden, REMEMBER THE LIGHTNING


"Album Review: Dolph Chaney – Mug by Bill Kopp"

While its original heyday was in the early ‘70s, power pop never went away; songwriters continued to craft finely-tuned, compact songs that – in their own often modest way – carried on the tradition.

Dolph Chaney is one of those, but he’s much more than just one of those. As good as 2021’s This is Dolph Chaney showed itself to be, here a couple of years later the Chicago(land) rocker has taken (as they say) a great leap forward. While “Nice” is a sturdy rocker worthy of its title, “Cool in the Sunshine” shows a more sophisticated, more nuanced side of Chaney. And “Mr. Eli” balance bounciness and rock values.

But wait: there’s more in this pleasingly varied lot. “Love Around You” heads in a countrified direction, with acoustic guitars and keening pedal steel, with Chaney effortlessly shifting his vocal tone into a Neil Young-meets-Poco style. “Bad Bet” recalls ‘70s piano-based rock-pop at its finest, with shades of Elton John leavened by a modern sensibility that recalls Ben Folds. “Good Luck With All That” splits the difference between country rock and, well, shoegaze, adding a soaring quality and an impassioned (but never overwrought) vocal.

For “Ice Cream Embers” it’s back to sharp hooks, a driving bassline and some whip-smart drumming. “Undone” is equal parts jangle and crunch; a winning recipe, that. “How it Really Was” calls to mind The Records, Rockpile and other late ‘70s pub rock heroes. “Only Hope” takes things in a heavy direction redolent of Pearl Jam; I didn’t see that coming, and wouldn’t have expected it to work as well as it does (very well indeed).

On “Californiagain,” Chaney spits out lyrics at warp speed. But the dual lead guitar and subtle ska underpinning make it worthwhile. “Critic (the Mirror)” suggests the influence of ‘80s hardcore bands like Hüsker Dü, with those influences channeled through the radio-ready approach of, say, Material Issue. It also features the album’s snappiest lead guitar solo. “First Time Back” has some heartfelt and meaningful lyrics, but listeners need not tune into them to appreciate the strong melodic values of the song; they merely make it even better.

The set blows by quickly, feeling much shorter than its 48 minute run time; that’s a testament to Chaney’s songwriting and arranging smarts. Anyone who enjoyed Chaney’s previous outing will be more than captivated by Mug. And for those checking him out for the first time, this is the place to start. Superb! - MUSOSCRIBE


"ALBUM REVIEW: Dolph Chaney “Mug” by Dw Dunphy"

...while so many have been mourning pop/rock with the phrase, “They just don’t make ’em like they used to,” here it is. One they made like they used to.

Specifically, Chaney as primary songwriter, and co-conspirator Nick Bertling as his personal mad multi-instrumental scientist, give spark to a collection of tunes developed over decades which are informed by the same spirit of ’70s-ish pop that inspired musicians like Matthew Sweet and Velvet Crush. “Informed,” not beholden to. Chaney also infuses his narratives with a light touch, even when the topics verge on the heavier parts of life. You can intuit the occasional aura of Barenaked Ladies around his concoctions while, at all steps, being himself.

Album opener “Nice” bobs and weaves a few self-deprecating haymakers through a satisfying thicket of edgy guitars, chronicling the loneliness of the nice guy who we’ve been told is doomed to finish last. He knows it, too, for while he is considerate to one and all, he’s not getting too far with that. “Finishing last inside my head, once even finished last in bed, and on my tombstone, two words…’Dead – nice.’

“Good Luck With All That” recounts a love relationship that, try as one might to walk on those eggshells, tiptoe around emotional landmines, and hope things get better, simply don’t. “I’m not undone, just done with being a diplomat,” Chaney confesses. The song moves from tenuous to incendiary toward the back half. I mentioned this album was in the pop/rock vein, so file this under that latter part of the category.

My personal favorite from the album is “Undone,” which acts as a sort of sequel to “Good Luck…” and finds the protagonist rejecting his doormat destiny for real. It has quite the charge to it, in melody and no-nonsense tempo, and somewhere in heaven Tommy Keene is smiling down, saying, “Thank you, Dolph.”

As you may have surmised, there is a thread weaving these songs together even if it is not a concept record outright. The intention is clear. As Thomas Walsh once sang, “It’s nice to be nice,” but you don’t have to make yourself the tragic figure of your own novel. Also, you can express these thoughts and emotions without devolving into third-string emo wallowing.

This tightrope walk is made manifest by the visual puns that comprise the CD packaging. The front is a standalone image of Chaney’s headshot on a mug – his mug on a mug, as it were. The back has him slackjawed and stunned in a police mugshot. It is a literal interpretation of the light and dark of the record without getting so heavy that you’d reject trying it out strictly on sight. Someone remarked that this approach reminded them of the early Sparks albums where the Mael brothers were depicted comically in some harrowing scenarios. That’s about right.

Yeah, nice guys are known to finish last. They hold the doors for others that would never bother the same for them. They stay in relationships that will forever bear negative fruit, or die on the vine. They make songs for years and years that most often will never be heard or appreciated by others. That does not seem to be the fate for Dolph Chaney or Mug.

You know what to do. https://bigstirrecords.com/dolph-chaney - MusicTAP


"babysue April 2021 reviews (THIS IS DOLPH CHANEY - Top Pick)"

babysue TOP PICK:

"Look out pop music fans. Dolph Chaney's back. And this time he's hit one totally out of the ballpark. Chaney impressed lots of folks with his last release (Rebuilding Permit). That album had a great deal of unique charm, and lots of folks really loved the simple stripped down sound. When I first heard that Chaney had gone for a more polished studio sound this time around, I was kinda concerned. Would the elements that were appreciated so much last time remain intact? Well, hell, the answer is YES. All those elements are still there...but now they've been upped several notches. For this humorously-titled album Dolph teamed up with Nick Bertling (of Bertling Noise Laboratories) and together the two created a modern pop masterpiece. These songs have a much more punchy percussive sound than the last album. But the reason the new approach seems to work so well is probably because of the choice of material. These songs are ultra strong and memorable. And there are no clunkers to be found, period. Several are like mental glue, impossible to get out of your head once you hear them. Even Chaney's voice sounds more focused and gripping. Whereas Rebuilding Permit reminded me of folks like Scott Miller and Alex Chilton, This Is Dolph Chaney reminds me more of The Raspberries at times (and coming from me that's a huge compliment). All of these songs sound like potential hits, but my initial favorites include "I Wanted You," "Cuddle Party," "Pleasant Under Glass," "My Good Twin" (this one is over-the-top killer), "Worship Song" and "Graveyard Shift." If you enjoyed Chaney's music before, chances are you'll be totally blown away by this album. Smart fine-tuned pop music that is inspired and truly resilient. Highly recommended. Top pick." - babysue


"Dolph Chaney – This Is Dolph Chaney album review"

Dolph Chaney – This Is Dolph Chaney album review by Ian Canty

Big Stir

CD/DL

Released 20 February 2021

New album from singer songwriter Dolph Chaney, his second for Big Stir and the follow up to last year’s well-received Rebuilding Permit. This collection consists of 13 brand new recordings that were overseen by studio boffin Nick Bertling at his Bertling Noise Laboratories set up…Ian Canty finds out about the man and his music…

Dolph Chaney made his first forays into music way back in 1987, but it is only in the last few years that he has been making the kind of headway his talent warrants. After his recent (and excellent) Rebuilding Permit album from last year, his first for the Big Stir label, he’s back now with a new LP simply entitled This Is Dolph Chaney. Changes are afoot though, whereas in the past Dolph did pretty much everything on his own, on this latest collection he collaborates with Nick Bertling of Bertling Noise Laboratories, who produced the set in addition to playing various instruments too.

The man of the moment though is looking chipper if not positively suave on the cover photo. Together with the rest of the design style utilised, the sleeve brings to mind a greatest hits album, with the song titles going down the right hand side as we face it. This is actually not so far from the truth, as the selections featured find Dolph sourcing 13 songs from his back pages. These numbers were written at various times during the last 30 years with the oldest effort being Under The Overpass, which was originally conceived way back in 1991. Fortunately enough and adding to this “best of” feeling, you can pick virtually any track on the record and come up trumps with something would sound great coming out of the radio, hi fi, jukebox, anywhere really.

Status Unknown swings This Is Dolph Chaney into action with a slow and acoustic fade in. Then we are swiftly introduced to a sense of mystery and inner turmoil that pervades the subject matter of this record. Soul searching often draws a blank here or leads to a dead end, leaving more questions than answers – just like in the real world. In this song the vagaries of life leave the protagonist seems to be alienated by the people he most wants to know, which again reflects harsh reality. Added to that, the music is perfect – in particularly the patient build to a honeyed guitar solo. It’s an early indication that lets you know you’re dealing with someone who will go to great pains to create a gratifying and beautiful musical arrangement, which gives the lyrical stories a firm framework to work on.

A full-on guitar pop/rock monster of a tune I Wanted You follows, it’s catchy as hell and seems to address the sense of release gained by coming out of a toxic/failed relationship. I know the feeling, when I’ve personally tried to carry on regardless of the fact that there is really no hope and the best thing to do is bow out. We go down a few notches on Beat It, I think this one recalls Neil Young a little bit, in Dolph’s voice and the feeling of hard-won authenticity. The very touching tale is given an apt and sensitive treatment. One should also not downplay Nick Bertling’s achievements here – he works as a perfect foil for Dolph all the way through.



Cuddle Party adopts an edgy new wave style, something which suits the song and is very well accomplished. Dolph’s voice is great here and the simple keyboard line fits the tune like a glove. The song itself cannily picks out everyday images that gain importance beyond their worth when one is reflecting back on lost love. There is a true depth to the songwriting on this record, something which is only gained through often bitter experience. Starting with a lovely bit of jangly guitar and rhythm riffing, Now I Am A Man, with “I just had my first prostate exam” among the great lines included, sketches around the necessary adjustments needed to survive over the years with a knowing eye. Then Meaningless opts for a much sparser musical setting, here Dolph dwells on life’s many questions, but not in a lofty or inaccessible way. The spacy feel of the music supplies a meditative background to fit the serious subject and the guitar motors everything along in fine fashion.

There’s a trapped feeling to the words of Pleasant Under Glass, which appears to address another (or possibly the same) unbalanced relationship. But an irrepressible melody offsets the darker lyrical stance, a bouncy pop tune to cherish with some well-judged backing vocals. Strummed acoustic guitar and drones herald Sideless World, a beaut of an atmospheric lament to life’s redemptive qualities (I think?). This may seem like heavy stuff and in truth it is, but Dolph is always careful to undercut the seriousness with humour, like on the lively and infectious My Good Twin, another track that would make an excellent single. This segues into another ebullient rocker in Scales, with smart and memorable lines like “I wish these water wings could help me fly away”, which for me emerged as a particular favourite.

The cool meander of Under The Overpass comes next. Another tune just made to come flowing elegantly out of the radio, Chaney can turn up these kind of gems in a way very few can rival in this day and age. Penultimate track Worship Song then comes out swinging with a pure pop surge, the words dealing with an internal dialogue between Dolph and Jesus, where the former confesses “I’m a dumbass – forgive me”. Finally Graveyard Shift brings things to a downbeat but fitting conclusion, with the dark subject presented in only a few verses. The music has a strange kind of eternal feel, offering some light where in other hands the whole thing could have been too doomy. Anyway, it’s an ending that works the near-impossible trick of being both low-key and epic at the same time.

Looking at the album as a whole, it digs deep into the artist’s psyche over three decades. It doesn’t offer easy answers, but does reveals the joy and knowledge that learning hard lessons can bring. Though situations no doubt changed over the 30 years the songs span, the “big” questions are still there and Dolph is not afraid to meet them head on. Which is very brave really and certainly pays off as it stamps genuineness right through the record. Returning back to the “Greatest Hits” idea, these tunes successfully latched themselves in my subconscious and like the great collection it is, I suspect more plays will yield further delights. This Is Dolph Chaney works both as a concise and neat introduction to his work and as an enigmatic, thoroughly enjoyable album of depth, real emotion and sharp insight. - Louder Than War


"Dolph Chaney - REBUILDING PERMIT (Big Stir Records)"

In a nutshell, Rebuilding Permit is the sound of pure emotion. The artist Dolph Chaney channels a stark realism directly from his soul and into the senses of those listening. It is not an affair of doom and gloom, instead this work is a celebration of life itself. Like us all, there is a sense that Dolph has gone through some trials in his life, and Rebuilding Permit is metaphorical of the first breath a drowning man breathes as he reaches the surface. The saviour and survival honed across nine tracks, as the rebuilding becomes the re-evaluation and redemption all in one.

With that depth in mind this is the sound of a triumphant troubadour connecting without judgement, a hand reaching out to comfort. Dolph has that rare gift of being able to resonate with those who cannot find the words to explain how they feel. As the first track begins, “It’s Ok” you realize this is the start of the healing process. Though a track which is so upbeat and positive that immediately you become hooked, and that is a good thing. Onward into “If I Write It Down”, the powerful imagery and hopeful messages build passionately. – “If I write it down then I have to feel”
A song which lifts the lid on how and why you should face your fears. It is that word ‘fear’ or rather fearlessness that pulses through Rebuilding Permit like an electrical current.

The songwriting is amazing, crafting words to rock sounds. “The Handling” exudes this, with a meeting of old-school power pop and Steve Miller, it rocks with the best of them. And a whipping solo that cuts through your skin. With flourishes of piano the oddly named “The Biscuit (Who Grabbed My Face)” erupts joyously, as Dolph Chaney injects warmth and sings as if his life depends on it. This theme switches into the nightmarish “Diet Of Worms”. An Americana-grunge feel that is driven by guitar cranks over acoustics with haunting drones erupting throughout.

There is no arguing with his political swipe “The President Of The United States Is The Breitbart Bimbo”. A protest anthemic statement fuelled by attacking guitar riffs that comes out of nowhere but fits in nicely with its surroundings. This menace is pulled back with the soul rendering “Broken”. An acoustic track that moves from minimalistic to emotion stirring as the instruments merge to the feelings. Then into a standout track, “A Good Road Is Hard To Find”. A slice of brilliance based on the hardest struggles reap the greatest rewards. It moves with emotion and an acoustic guitar pattern that lodges into your brain.

The closing “(Who Am I) To Ask You To Dance?”, brings this journey to an end. A melodic piece of self belief, that ends as beautiful as it starts. Ultimately pain should not create such beauty, or so you would think. The thing is though, this is not a paint-by-numbers affair, it is not a pretentious second hand view. It is real life, and Dolph Chaney is a real person, but he is gifted and his talent shines.

Tracklist;
1.It’s OK
2.If I Write It Down
3.The Handling
4.The Biscuit (Who Grabbed My Face)
5.Diet Of Worms
6.The President Of The United States Is The Breitbart Bimbo
7.Broken
8.A Good Road Is Hard To Find
9.(Who Am I) To Ask You To Dance? - Kevin Burke, THE BIG TAKEOVER


Discography

ALBUMS (* = available on Apple Music, Spotify, and other major services)

* MUG - 2023 (Big Stir)

* THIS IS DOLPH CHANEY - 2021 (Big Stir)
* REBUILDING PERMIT - 2020 (Big Stir)


* SHENANIGANS - 2013

* LOUDNESS 2 11 - 2012
* GLASS BREAK DEMENTIA - 2009
HIPPO HOLLANDAISE - 2008
* GUMSHOE KOALA - 2008
* CLIMBING MOUNTAIN TIME - 2005
VERY JUST FINE:
* VOLUME ONE - 1999
LOUDNESS TWO - 2001
AMPLITUDE THREE - 2004
HEADBONKER (live) - 1999
* NEW BIRD RISE - 1998
HUMBUG GLORY - 1996
INFINITY DOGS - 1994
RIPPLES - 1993

Photos

Bio

Acclaimed recording artist Dolph Chaney's 2023 album MUG (released via Big Stir Records) received rave reviews, multiple "Best of the Year" mentions and international airplay and he is kicking off 2024 with a new line-up of his backing band The Phins and the release of the album's latest single "Californiagain."

RIYL: Bob Mould, XTC, Elvis Costello, Matthew Sweet, Neil Finn, Harry Nilsson

"MUG is one of the great 'Singer Songwriter' albums; lyrically adept, heartwarmingly melodic and a wonderful production of 13 special songs." -Don Valentine, I Don't Hear a Single  

Big Stir Records is proud to bring you the all-new album MUG by Chicagoland indie-pop troubadour DOLPH CHANEY. The thirteen-song collection – the followup to the 2021 indie-radio favorite THIS IS DOLPH CHANEY and his third for BSR – was released on CD and via all streaming platforms on Oct 6, 2023. 

MUG continues Chaney's collaboration with ace producer NICK BERTLING, whose sonic acumen made THIS IS... such an engrossing listen. But where its predecessor saw Chaney and Bertling mining a rich back catalog of road-tested originals, MUG's fresh material presents a portrait of where Dolph Chaney is today, and one sure to thrill his growing fanbase on the global pop-rock scene. 

MUG's first two singles, "Nice" and "Mr. Eli," and other Chaney originals released by Big Stir have received airplay via CHIRP (Chicago, IL), KAOS (Olympia, WA), WLUW (Chicago), Asheville FM (Asheville, NC), WSPJ-LP (Syracuse, NY), KDHX (St. Louis), Woody Radio, Ocean City Radio Plymouth (UK), Cygnus Radio, and SiriusXM (The Rodney Bingenheimer Show via Little Steven's Underground Garage). 

With MUG's percolation complete and reviews and airplay still pouring in, Dolph is, for the first time this century, leading a full band: DOLPH CHANEY & THE PHINS have booked a solid schedule of gigs in and around Chicago to present the new songs in all their blazing glory, with an eye toward wider touring in 2024. 


"[MUG] blows by quickly, feeling much shorter than its 48 minute run time; that’s a testament to Dolph Chaney’s songwriting and arranging smarts. Anyone who enjoyed Chaney’s previous outing will be more than captivated by MUG. And for those checking him out for the first time, this is the place to start. Superb!" -Bill Kopp, Musoscribe 

Band Members