All considered, London's Part Chimp had a pretty good run. Over the group's 10-year existence, they released three full-lengths on Mogwai's Rock Action label and a handful of EPs and singles, toured both sides of the Atlantic and developed the sort of small yet passionate fan base that will mourn the band's imminent demise the way a much larger crowd recently dealt with R.E.M.'s end.
Unlike the multitude of groups that break up thanks to merciless circumstances or mutilated relationships, Part Chimp is calling it quits on their own terms. "We all get on fine and enjoy what we're doing, but it's been 10 years," the band wrote on its website earlier this year. "It's time to think about new things."
This year, actually, Part Chimp has thought about a lot of new things, behaving more as an upstart than a band bowing against the twilight. Since January, when they announced their break-up, they've recorded tracks for two upcoming releases. They have a European tour planned for the end of the year, after they finish up their current and final American run.
Part Chimp's shows on this side of the Atlantic pair them with their former labelmates and like-minded heavy noisemakers, the headliners Torche. The tour coincides with a new and very limited EP split between the two bands, combining three Guided By Voices covers from Torche and a pair of final originals from Part Chimp. Despite the two groups' various sonic similarities, their current fortunes could barely be more dissimilar. Since 2009's epic and anthemic Meanderthal, Torche's profile has swelled, thanks in large part to the group's rare ability to not only delight metal-friendly audiences but also attract indie rock kids. Those Guided By Voices covers will undoubtedly further secure their standings in at least one of those circles.
Coincidentally enough, Part Chimp also released an album in 2009. While Meanderthal helped introduce Torche to a new audience, the cheekily named Thriller preached mostly to the converted. On some level, the failure of Thriller to gain any sort of traction is simply a matter of past and circumstance. When Part Chimp was first making a splash back in 2003, the more popular avenues of indie rock didn't really want anything to do with their brand of bracing, aggressive noise. While there will always be folks who latch onto Part Chimp's particular sound, the band couldn't have been more out of step with what was happening around them nearly a decade ago. The bedroom-sized, arena-rock stylings of Broken Social Scene and The Arcade Fire were stepping or about to step into the light, while Radiohead was slowly coming back down to earth following their dalliance with IDM-styled sound. But here were three (and at times four) folks from England revisiting the primal stuff of the early '90s—when Steve Albini was still recording Jesus Lizard albums, when the ink on Sonic Youth's DGC contract was still drying, when The Fall was less than a decade removed from pissing off the fine folks at Motown. Simply put, the musical misanthropy of Part Chimp just wasn't made for those times.
If albums like Chart Pimp and I Am Come had been released more recently, Part Chimp's fate might have been different. These days, The New Yorker weighs in (haphazardly) on the state of the American black metal scene, while The Village Voice publishes a piece proclaiming the return of "pigfuck," the subgenre coined by critic Robert Christgau to pigeonhole '80s groups like Swans and Big Black. Part Chimp's semi-metal music might have found itself an audience more receptive to their charms. Then again, those who put faith in the notion that butterflies in Africa can start hurricanes in Florida might argue that Part Chimp's music played a part in fostering the sort of environment that now gives like-minded groups a better chance at survival. If this current wave comes to include whatever the members of Part Chimp decide to do with themselves once the group finally finishes, all the better.