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.
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.