CHEAP GIRLS – FAMOUS GRAVES

cheapgirls

When I sat down to right this review I wasn’t sure I was a Cheap Girls fan and to be honest I’m still not sure. Famous Graves is a power pop album extraordinaire and that should be right up my alley. The musical nods to the music I was listening to in the nineties is really appealing and makes for a really great listen but the question I have to answer now is if that’s really necessary? If it was derivative I could write the whole thing off but it’s not at all. What it is is an amalgamation of all the things that were right with the power pop scene in the mid-nineties along with a worldview that’s copasetic with that same ethos and at the same time it’s an original take on the whole scene.

Now maybe I’m wrong, maybe these kids didn’t come up in the power pop scene, maybe they don’t idolize Westerberg, but I doubt I’m wrong. When you’re listening to the album it’s easy to catch yourself recognizing little bits and pieces that, I think, are nods to some of the inspirations for the album. I won’t list them out because I don’t want this to become a diatribe on the genre. But I do have to say I’m pretty convinced someone in the band is a fan of Soul Asylum. I think that a band that’s able to give solid nods to its inspiration and still sound like themselves is a sign of greatness so these guys have that going for them for sure.

This the fourth album from these guys and they obviously still have something to give us. Overall the music well composed and still manages to convey a sense of urgency but maybe not quite enough. I think one of the things that keeps on the fence about this one is that they seem a little too happy to be singing lines like:

Kick me in the kidneys really hard
I’m gonna write my name in blood in the backyard

which is a fucking stellar line but to me it just sounds too, well, upbeat. Maybe that’s alright though and damnit I wish I could decide.

Lyrically I think this is a great record. It’s got everything I expect from a band doing what I have described here. I think my only complaint is that it’s just too upbeat but that seems pretty petty as I type it out. There’s lots of bands who sound upbeat while singing about some pretty angsty stuff. I think I like this album more than I did when I started writing this review days ago. If I think about whether I go see them live then I certainly think this album is good enough to make leave the house. It’s not drinking alone music but it sure could increase the amount of alcohol being ordered if someone played it on a jukebox.

Honestly this is an album that took time to grow on me. I liked it more and more with each listen and I’m glad I gave it that chance. In the end I’m on the fence about whether this is Essential Listening. If you’re a power pop fan then it’s something you shouldn’t miss but if you’re not then this isn’t the album that’s going to change your mind but you still might find it a good listen in the right situation. This is really one where you’re going to have decide for yourself. As far as I’m concerned it’ll be in my rotation for the foreseeable future. To sum up, this is Essential Listening but it took me a while to realize it.

Knock Me Over
Pure Hate
Splintered

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I know this review seems a little disjointed, it was written almost as a stream of thought over the course of three days. I wanted to try and show my process on this one because I wasn’t sure about it. I hope that exposing the thought process works out and isn’t too confusing.

5 thoughts on “CHEAP GIRLS – FAMOUS GRAVES”

  1. Great to read yer thoughts!

    Something I read in a review of the new Failures’ Union (buddies to Cheap Girls) album struck me as really useful to describe this group of 90s-indebted power-pop-punk-indie bands like Cheap Girls, Failures’ Union, Bedford Falls, etc:

    “In 2014, Failures’ Union may have released the last great record of the nineties. But they don’t sound kitschy, nostalgic or dated like many bands trying to emulate Pavement or Dinosaur Jr. do. That’s because they don’t sound like they’re trying to emulate anyone. There are shades of the Goo Goo Dolls, Archers of Loaf, and the Gin Blossoms here, but those bands sound less like influences and more like peers.”

    the More Like Peers part. It’s true. It feels like active discussion more than just memories.

    I dunno if the lyrics are delivered too happily. I know Ian, the singer and songwriter and bassist, had back surgery and a lot of the lyrics seem to be about being laid-up and having nothing to do but hate yourself. I think he can stretch himself vocally more than he ever does on record. Their music and lyrics get better every record, but his voice doesn’t develop any further dynamics or anything. They’re a guitar band, though, so maybe as long as the guitar develops (as it has) over the records, his voice can do what it does.

    1. Honestly if I had written this like I normally do that line about “happy” wouldn’t have even been in there. Since I wasn’t familiar with the band or the record I really wanted to document the process, so to speak. And I struggled with how to phrase the influences part and I think I like the way you said it better. They aren’t derivative for sure. I am digging it though and now I have to go back through their catalog and listen to the progression.

  2. I actually felt this way about their last album, Giant Orange, but when I saw them live it was like everything clicked. They are a powerful fucking band, and Ian’s demeanor was unique and in an offbeat way very charming.

    I dig this record; I do need to sit down with a lyrics sheet though…

  3. They’re great live. I’ve been eagerly awaiting their last three records and you can definitely hear a progression in them.

    Gabe, you’ll be shocked at how bleak some of these songs are when you sit down and read them.

  4. I’m kind of new to Cheap Girls but they are coming in August with The Hold Steady so I’m going to acquaint myself with their music. I’m digging this album upon initial listens. They will be perfect on a bill with THS.

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