(In The Red)
Explanations (and Similar Situations) is quite an impressive
evolution from its feral predecessor. When going back to review Cheap Time’s
self-titled debut album from ’08, after listening to their latest, I was struck
by several differences: the earlier release’s stripped-down, raw production
values, how lots of songs sounded alike, and how some reviewers had a slightly
higher opinion of it than I did. That said, Cheap
Time was far from awful; rather, just generic, glam-garage-punk, and fans
of the Black Lips and Jay Reatard surely embraced it, while furry-faced
garage-punkster Nobunny is known to be a big fan.
Improved production values
aside, all the songs on the new album are grabbers and the writing has matured
greatly. The music itself has shifted time periods, sounding more like the British
post-punk of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, in this case the Soft Boys’ Can of Bees album, right down to Robyn
Hitchcock’s drone-y, curdled snarl, but without the cryptic lyrics.
Singer/songwriter Jeffrey Novak’s songwriting here is now more complex and
melodic, and his vocals more confident and deliberate. The Nashville trio has
artfully transcended its sound with this album, hopefully making it their
FESS nearly didn’t see the light of day due to an incident at the
recording studio when the engineer cracked up and booted the band out at
gunpoint. Luckily the tapes were later recovered and the sessions finished when
top-notch producer Earle Mankey was recruited for the final mix. The record
could have been named Funtastic
Explorations, as it surely goes places the first album never dreamed of.
“Showboat” is an excellent example of how the music has transcended its earlier
small-town bar band, basic budget-rock songwriting. The thick, rich guitar work
swirls and howls in the breaks and the thumping drum beat recalls classic rock of the early ‘70s. “I’d Rather
Be Alone” and “Waiting Too Long” really stand out as Soft Boys wannabes. You
taste a little flavor of the Kinks in “June Child” and “Lazy Days.” Who can say if the boys will shape-shift
again for their next album, but the changes they’ve undergone for this effort
insures that all informed indie-music fans should be looking forward to it.
DOWNLOAD: “Showboat”, “Waiting Too Long.” BARRY ST. VITUS