The Handcuffs: Worth the wait

Album Review

The Handcuffs: Waiting for the Robot, (OOFL Records) due 9/6/11

“Testing, testing / May I have your attention / We are The Handcuffs / This is a test” Chloe Orwell sings through her bullhorn on “This Is A Test.” The good news is: they passed the test. Hell, they aced the test. The dynamic duo of Brad Elvis and Orwell are set to release record number three as The Handcuffs. The record is entitled Waiting For The Robot and is a thrill ride from the get go. Robot is the follow-up to Model for a Revolution (2006) and Electroluv (2008). Songs from both have been plastered all over TV and radio, some of which you may have heard. Influences are wide-ranging, with an iced blend of sixties, seventies and eighties sensibilities poured all over 2011 Chicago. It makes for a highly listenable concoction.

Elvis is a local legend, having been the drumming force behind The Screams, Big Hello, and The Elvis Brothers, before forming The Handcuffs with Orwell. He’s been called a “four-handed drummer” due to his powerhouse skins skills that drive each song. Orwell’s sultry and powerful voice is the perfect complement to that thumping. Describing the sound of The Handcuffs can be difficult, but to put it simply, they sound like The Handcuffs. That is, a glam-pop-rock inferno that dresses as loud as it sounds (and just as sharp). Having been compared to the likes of the Ting Tings, Sparks and T-Rex, the ‘Cuffs offer so much more.

Mike Hagler (Wilco, Neko Case) has returned to produce alongside the Elvis/Orwell joint to create a terrific set of 13 songs that have the sheen, but doesn’t ignore those dark and dangerous places. Ellis Clark (guitar), Alison Hinderliter (keyboards), and Emily Togni (bass), help to bring a full sound to those witty and intelligent lyrics, written mostly by Elvis.

“Dirty Glitter” kicks off Robot with a caffeinated shot of the Brad-Elvis-human-drum-machine and Orwell spouting seductive lyrics about being kissed “down to the floor.” Good start. “Miss You On Tuesday” is a pop treat including every ingredient in the recipe for a hitmaker. The record flows with an energy that is fueled, again, by Orwell and Elvis. The full band feel is priceless here, though, with Clark, Hinderliter and Togni stepping up to complete a five-piece that should be touring the world right now. These three musicians are talented and seasoned and fit perfectly into the Handcuffs’ scheme. And the guitar and bass on “Ooh Baby Baby” is as funky as it gets on Robot.

Listen: “Miss You On Tuesday”

“Eight Down” is a half-ballad that would sound wicked on a Cheap Trick album (listen up, Rick and Robin…maybe you should cover it some day). Elvis does a very rare and better-than-average singing stint with Orwell on “Baby I Love You” (“Put a gun in my hand, put a gun to my head / You’ve got to believe everything I’ve said is true / Baby I love you”). A clear standout is “Everybody Waves Hello,” which amps up every aspect of the Handcuffs’ talents and showcases that Brad Elvis humor by not stating the obvious (“Everybody took off their clothes / Then everybody put ’em back on / In between everybody had a good time / In between everybody had a great time”). Just think Waitresses squared and you’ll get the vibe.

On the closing track, Orwell hits near-perfection with “The Scary Side Of Me.” Discussions of love and hate and which one we should use radiate throughout this song. “I know the scary side of me,” Orwell swoons, “A side I hope you’ll never see.” A beautiful song to learn, especially in today’s America.

Overall, Waiting for the Robot is an outstanding offering from The Handcuffs, and any fan of glam or pop or rock or a combination of the three will find this thing irresistible. Listen to it twice through and you’ll have more than one favorite new song. For more information on the new album and tour dates, go to: thehandcuffs.com.

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