One of the three Chapin Sisters is the daughter of horror-movie director Wes Craven, a fact that might help explain why the trio’s lyrics can be as blunt as a psycho killer’s murder weapon. Some songs on the group’s debut full-length, Lake Bottom, are so lacking in subtlety as to be cringe-worthy — and not in the good, Freddy Krueger just scared the hell out of me way.
There are heart-on-sleeve breakup songs and then there’s “Kill Me Now,” in which an ex-boyfriend is told to “go get a rock and just stone me.” “Don’t Love You” doesn’t just let its title do the talking but instead goes superfluously further with lines like, “Don’t adore you, won’t die for you/ Not afraid you’ll break my heart.” And on "Girlfriend," a boy is urged to break up with his significant other in rather threatening terms: “Black and blue/ Tombstone gray/ Why won’t she just go away?”
These immature missteps on Lake Bottom are doubly frustrating since the Chapin Sisters turn in some good-to-great songs elsewhere on the album, which runs the gamut of emotions that can come out of romantic entanglements. “Hey” is a beautiful, bittersweet song about the often fine line between being friends and being lovers. Even as the Sisters sing, “There’s no turning back this late at night/ And it may not be right but then again it might/ So I guess it’s fine/ Just one more time,” you just know there will inevitably be another heartbreaking “just one more time.” “Wash Away” is like a rawer, more honest “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” from South Pacific. “Can’t We Please” begs a lover to “forgive all the words I said wrong.” And the title warbler of “Bird Song,” like the Norwegian Blue from the Monty Python skit, is pining (but for a lost love, not for the fjords).
The signature strength of the Chapin Sisters is the group’s lush, gorgeous three-part harmonies. They make bad lyrics sound better. Hell, the girls don’t even need to be singing words to sound great. The “doo-doo-doo”s that end “Let Me Go” are what get most stuck in your head after repeated listens to Lake Bottom. Hopefully with time the Chapin Sisters’s lyrical talent will catch up to match the band’s vocal prowess.