The story of Chief Broom (CB) is sadly a tragic one. Centered around the songwriting of Shadrach Tuck, this revolving cast of Boise, Idaho natives create songs that focus on “the fragility, monotony, beauty and horrors of everyday life.” Crafted in the wake of the death of co-founder TJ Tuck (Shadrach’s brother), Hidden in Plain Sight (HIPS) is a continuation of his musical journey – a fitting, if closing chapter on the life of a man who touched the Boise music scene in profound ways. TJ’s presence is felt all throughout HIPS – Shadrach and his revolving cast of characters (including mainstays Will Cheeseman and Frankie Tillo) saw to it that TJ was immortalized through painstaking attention to detail.
Both TJ’s drumming and artistic vision are integral to HIPS – recorded by band father Terre Tuck’s at his home studio, this album has the sincere feel of a homebrew creation with a grand vision that eclipses its humble, Boise-based roots. The underlying grunge influences can be easily sniffed out here (the easiest comparison is Nirvana), but it’s the slowcore (think Codeine, Slint, or Low) and 90s-era indie rock (Built to Spill, Pavement, etc.) influences that truly separate this from the pack. The result is an album that has the digestible (if crunchy) hooks of Nirvana with the nuance of some of the era’s more ambient luminaries – fans of more contemporary bands like Teenage Wrist, Superheaven, and Citizen will find lots to love here.
Title track “Hidden In Plain Sight (Walked Away)” is when Chief Broom first show their teeth. Through a feedback moan continued from album opener “Snuff (Prologue),” a gripping guitar lead kicks the song off with a sense of urgency and unrest. Where “Snuff” shows CB experimenting with wild instrumental runs and a jammy song structure, “Hidden” is where the band truly comes out of its shell; it would make one hell of a set opener at any dank basement show. Big, sludgy guitar chords launch this one into the stratosphere before reigning it back into a more reserved, slowcore-influenced verse. Mid song, start/stop guitar theatrics help to keep up those aforementioned unsettling feelings – they make sure to close it out with an all-consuming maelstrom of sound, punctuated curiously by a jazzy keyboard solo from featured musician Jake Marchus.
Lead single “DFAH” (which ostensibly stands for “don’t feel at home”) sounds like the aforementioned Built to Spill and Nirvana teamed up to craft some sort of supergroup. With spindly guitar flavors and an unmistakably grungy bass line, “DFAH” masterfully blends both genres into a sort of washy, 90s-flavored amalgamation. Of particular note is when the song drops out into a somber guitar-riff at the three-minute mark – the band slowly re-builds the song as element after element re-enters, including some mind-bending piano twinkles. In true CB fashion, they close the song out with sludged-out guitar slamming and soaring lead guitar riffs. It’s their calling card for sure.
My personal favorite moment on the album is the epic, seven-minute journey, “If Only.” This song is absolutely crushing, with heavy feelings immediately conjured by the barebones guitar riff on the acoustic-only opener. This becomes a recurring motif throughout “If Only,” a pattern the band latches onto and rides while Shadrach absolutely lays it on the line lyrically:
“If only I cared, life would be different. If I kept track of my things, I might have done better in school. I might have shown on time to things more often. Or gave a shit about my job and quit pissing away my time.”
It’s these kind of day-to-day nuances that people don’t like to talk about because they’re “too depressing.” Overtop of the perfect instrumental canvas, Shadrach somehow pens these minutia into words perfectly, dissecting every perceived mistake until there’s nothing left but the cold, hard truth. This song really spoke to me personally, even if it was a harsh reminder that every bad decision I’ve ever made in my life was my own doing – if you find yourself meandering through HIPS and feeling down about where you’re at in life, this one is a must-listen.
The album closes with a reprise, another heartbreaker titled “Leaks.” Released last year on a split with bandmate Frankie Tillo, the song has been re-imagined for inclusion on HIPS – and for good reason. Lyrically, “Leaks” touches upon TJ’s untimely death – I’ll let Shadrach bring this one home:
“When my feet hit the floor of my bedroom
today I ask myself,
“how can I take one step more?”
I guess I never thought this early I’d see my little brother leave…
but I force myself to think about all these fallen trees feeding new flora
or simply fueling the fire under my ass.
Shit, if it pushed my uncle to
finally become a rehab-grad at last,
I guess it’s never too late to patch that leak in your life…”
There’s plenty more to dive into on Hidden in Plain Sight – the album is a complete journey with songs that flow into each other both conceptually and instrumentally. They truly don’t make ’em like this anymore. HIPS is out now via Mishap Records – you can find it on Bandcamp, Spotify, and Apple Music.