Review from www.pithcforkmedia.com .
Emo might be a safe haven for the sad kids, but it doesn’t often reflect the day-to-day drudgery of mind-crushing depression, which sounds less like screaming and more like the final whimper you emit before finally becoming part of the floor. Leave that to shoegaze or post-punk, or to the tuneful mark between the two that Seattle rock band Chastity Belt hits on their third album.
Though it’s buffered with slices of relative optimism—opener “Different Now” lays out a few answers to what band wrestles with for the rest of the album—I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone curls into dark corners, exploring the depths of desperation and self-loathing that Chastity Belt only hinted at on their last two albums. Instead of belting out smirking shoutalongs like “Cool Slut” (about the joys of sleeping around) or “Pussy Weed Beer” (self-explanatory), lead singer Julia Shapiro enters a headspace with new gravity, where the word “pussy” isn’t funny anymore and sleeping with someone—or otherwise—is out of the question. The album sheds Chastity Belt’s former tongue-in-cheek bubbliness for the kind of world-weariness that only sets in with time and only time can ease.
“Fucked up, anxious, full of fear/How did I get here?” Shapiro hollers on “This Time of Night,” playing her own antagonist in a song about curling up in bed and shutting out the world: “Pull the sheets over my eyes.” It’s the most aggressive Chastity Belt has ever sounded, thanks to the full-bodied attack Gretchen Grimm hammers out on drums during the verses. While that song still offers the guitar curlicues that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Real Estate album, “Stuck” is smeared with Slowdive reverb, “Something Else” borrows its octave-jumping trebles from Joy Division, and the lovesick rumble “It’s Obvious” could have been snatched from the B-sides to Hum’s 1995 LP You’d Prefer an Astronaut.
The varied taxonomy of the band gels together as they relay the psychological slog of trying really hard to just be OK. Rhythm guitars fall like thick curtains behind the meandering leads, while Grimm and bassist Annie Truscott weight each song down like a lead apron. Their playing grounds Shapiro’s thorny subject matter, which against lighter dressing might come off flippant or mean. Instead, her sarcasm sounds like the final weapon she’s got left in her arsenal against the totalizing blankness of twentysomething ennui.
There’s a word Shapiro keeps using while muscling her way through the clouds over her head. “I just fall on my face when I’m trying to have fun/Do you ever dream about what it’s like to give up?” she sings on “Complain.” “Dream” isn’t the first word most lyricists would use on the lead-in to “give up,” but Shapiro neutralizes its positive connotations over and over again. On “Caught in a Lie,” she’s “caught in someone else’s dream,” a prison of expectation where she tries to play a role someone else has thought up for her. “Is this what you want?/Is this who you want me to be?”
Maybe it’s in tribute to depression’s cyclical nature that Alone’s opener also plays like it’s conclusion. Instead of sounding haggard and beleaguered, Shapiro sings from a place of calm on “Different Now.” It’s as if she’s figured out how to save herself from her worst moments and wrote the song as an instruction manual. “Take away your pride and take away your grief/And you’ll finally be right where you need to be,” she advises. But it’s only track one, the eye of the storm, and before long, the clouds roll right back in.