on 10 February 2014
Cheatahs’ debut LP is difficult to pin down. When tracks like “Leave To Remain” sound like the more nauseous parts of Loveless and others have the very literal shoegaze sense of disappearing into transportative, head-nodding noise, their claims of being an ambient-punk band may seem to be misleading. Certainly there are few parallels to draw between the London-based band’s fuzzy alt-rock and say, Deerhunter, the current kings of self-proclaimed ambient-punk. On many levels, especially when we consider 50% of the Cheatahs line-up hail from North America, someone like Ringo Deathstarr seems a more appropriate comparison.
That all said, if by ambient-punk Cheatahs mean melodic, fuzzed-out rock with crunchy guitars and a dreamy edge borrowed from the early 90s then they may be on to something. Beneath the pedal-driven scree of “Northern Exposure”, for example, there’s a discernable indie jangle – not typically the preserve of any type of punk. All the same, this is a direction that can lead to wishy-washier results and so it proves with disappointments like “Mission Creep”, though similar indie-punker “The Swan” fares much better, marauding with DIY intent just as it did on last year’s solid SANS EP.
We could talk about nomenclature all day, but in many cases it’s futile – either too restrictive or too vague. What’s clear in any case is that the star of Cheatahs’ show is that killer guitar crunch, particularly when it comes in to offset the slightly fey 90s bent such as on “Get Tight”. It’s even better on the buzzsaw rocker “Kenworth” – one half of the recent AA single backed with the melodic “Cut The Grass”. Incorporating dissonant drone simmer, both these tracks feel like the wheels may fly off at any time, but so too are they held back by the knowledge that they won’t for which it’d be too easy and stereotypically lazy to blame the German precision of drummer Marc Raue. Punk doesn’t need to be dangerous but can it be tasteful? Maybe not, unless – to bring the conversation full circle – this is the ambience Cheatahs were referring to all along?
Best tracks: “Leave To Remain” and “Kenworth”
on 21 February 2014
From the very first glorious lump of guitar that hijacks you from a familiar hiss, to the very last waveringly detuned hum you’re hoping doesn’t have to fade out, this album is both a delight and absolutely bankrupt. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a fantastic sound. Not that how fantastic that noise is should be a surprise. If you ever had ears and walked around a bit twenty odd years ago, then you would already know that this always was a fantastic sound, on account of all those other albums you used to enjoy back then. They sounded exactly like this, only more so. Ride. Dinosaur Jr. My Bloody Valentine. *That*
Even bands that weren’t good fit in here, too. Swervedriver, say. Bloody Swervedriver. I remember hating them at the time. But then, one of the very good reasons this album is such a joy to hear now is how much better 1991 sounds when it’s 23 years since you lived in it. Because what this album sounds like is if that entire year got together and made a record that sounded precisely like a slightly inferior copy of any one of those bands on their own. To be fair, it’s very good. In fact, if this album had been released 20 years ago, then bands like the one that just released it now would probably be copying it.
The problem isn’t that that’s both a complement and an insult, it’s that I don’t know what ratio the two are in. You’ll already know if you like the sound Cheatahs make, then. It’s just that, if you remember it from the first time round, then listening to them might feel a little too close to hugging a costume drama with your ears.
on 11 December 2014
Although undoubtedly done before, Cheatahs refresh the sweet sound of shoegaze whilst wonderfully discerning its roots.
All tracks bide into wonderfully reverbed layers beautifully complemented by Nathan Hewitts vulnerable vocals.
Undoubtedly the album is something of a grower as it can sound slightly muffled on the first listen but is well worth the time investment as tracks such as 'Fall' become more incredible after every listen, the riff on this one is something MBV would bend over backwards for. The more swaggery sounds of 'Mission Creep' and 'Leave to remain' bind the album together effortlessly. How these guys have such little recognition is a mystery, Live also the tracks carry the same oomph as the recordings making it something of a fascinating live spectacle which leaves you unsure whether to mosh it out or stand mesmerized at how these incredible stinging sounds are being produced by a four piece.
Listening the way through is the very very least you can do.
The gaze bar has been set highly here.