Singer/guitarist Matt Sweeney first came to light with the New Jersey punk band Skunk, whose two records feature sophomoric album titles with juvenile lyrics and aimless vocals to match, although both are stylistically diverse and Laid shows real progress toward a fully realized sound. When Skunk dissolved, Sweeney served a stint in the New York group Wider, whose ranks included ex-Live Skull drummer James Lo. When Wider likewise splintered, Sweeney and Lo hooked up with bassist Scott Masciarelli and former Bullet LaVolta guitarist Clay Tarver to form Chavez. (Meanwhile, ex-Skunk bassist Matt Quigley formed a Move-sounding dress-up glam duo, Vaganza. Last American Virgin guitarist Stephan Apicella spent some time in H.P. Zinker, as had Sweeney; drummer Claude “Matt” Coleman has worked with Chris Harford, Hub Moore and Ween in addition to leading his own group, Amandla.)
A pair of tracks originally recorded for a demo tape became Chavez’s magnificent debut 7-inch, “Repeat the Ending” b/w “Hack the Sides Away,” both sides of which feature huge, lurching rhythmic shifts that give way to anthemic choruses rooted in classic hard rock and show that Sweeney had developed into an extremely powerful songwriter and front presence. This single, combined with a series of incendiary live shows, made Chavez the hottest band on the New York club scene in the latter part of 1994. The quartet’s first album, Gone Glimmering, issued the following year, is somewhat more rhythmically straightforward than the 45 (and also finds Sweeney’s vocals sounding curiously like Kurt Cobain’s at several points) but only barely less effective. Whether playing on a high-energy adrenaline rush (“Nailed to the Blank Spot,” “Pentagram Ring”) or doing a slow burn (“Break Up Your Band,” “The Ghost by the Sea”), Chavez sounds utterly assured and delivers a stun-gun guitar charge all the way through. Lone gripe: the album clocks in at only 30 minutes.
The Pentagram Ring EP is an excellent introduction to Chavez, featuring the best cut from Gone Glimmering, both sides of the great debut single and two new tracks — one of which, “You Faded,” is as strong as anything in the Chavez songbook.