Miss Chain and the Broken Heels began as a solo project for leader Astrid Dante, but soon became a band that could whip up a great power pop hook in their sleep – though they harboured emotional centres that weren’t just soda pop and Saturday night. Their garage rock instrumentation always exudes a subtle complexity and charm, centred around guitarist Silva Cantele’s sturdy rhythm and emotive leads, and singer Astrid Dante’s voice that harbours an alluring, mid-range yearning that goes beyond just detailing the crush of romance into somethinG more.
After their initial spate of excellent 7-inch singles, they released two fine albums – but ‘Storms’ is their first since 2013.
In that interim, Dante wound deeper into her therapist career; Silva Cantele embarked on a solo post-folk odyssey around the globe; and bassist, Franz Barcella, developed into Italy’s best garage/punk booking agent and runs the band’s label, Wild Honey.
It’s that kind of ever-smouldering love of musical and psychological exploration that gives Miss Chain’s music a heft often lost on most peppy jangle pop acts. Blame it on that legendarily romantic Italian spirit, or just a huge bout of boredom, but the band felt that need again to get back in the studio and gather the years of experience into Storms – their best collection of songs yet.
“It’s a mature record,” says Dante, “definitely more obscure and intimate than all our previous releases.” At first blush, you might not think so.
They kick off with one of their most sharp guitar hooks yet in the pounding “I Don’t Know,” proving a few years off haven’t slowed them down. The sprawling, speedy “Hunters of Hope” is a nominee for best road trip song of 2023; the up’n’down volumes of “Since Your Gone” add intrigue; and the hillbilly strum of “Uh Uh Uh” will turn toe-taps into sprints to the nearest dance hall. It isn’t really until the last, lovely, sock hop slow dance number, “Lie,” that finally takes you away from this storm of shimmering melodies, shaky beats, and worried words. Repeated listens though reveal rainy sub-moods in songs like “Storms” and “Caring Wolves,” full of hiding, loneliness, and rain.
The band seems to think the themes on ‘Storms’ could be too serious. As Dante said about her lyrics, “I tried not to sound too ‘therapist.’” Don’t worry, this album is not for lying down and crying. While Dante’s words lead to some deep reflection, their strongest asset is as a balance for the unrelentingly crisp, inspiring swing of the music.
Cantele remarked that it’s the first time everyone in the band had a hand in writing the songs; and Dante says producer Riccardo Zamboni “restlessly focused on giving a proper identity to the album’s sound even way before we even stepped into the studio.”
“Storms is an album centred on personal growth,” Dante concludes. “It’s all about the tension in between letting something go and keeping something else flowing, searching for a balance that has its roots in what we were, and blossoms into what we are.”