Let’s start this with an absolute hot-take. I know nobody will have told you this before, but 2020 was a real struggle of a year. No, really. Believe me!
Luckily, Cheekface are back with their second album ‘Emphatically No.’ This album perfectly sums up our year in quarantine and will have you reminiscing about Zoom quizzes, failed sourdough starters and binge-watching series you’ve seen one thousand times.
The L.A. trio of George Katz, Amanda Tanner and Mark ‘Echo’ Edwards manage to encapsulate the experience of a sea of disaffected ‘Millennials’, but the skill is the way they frame it in disarmingly cheery indie-punk tones. Especially in the vocals of George Katz, who seems to be both sickeningly enthusiastic and apathetic at the same time- like someone trying to convince you it’s a good thing that you’re being evicted.
Opening track ‘Listen to your heart. No’ picks up where the previous album ‘Therapy Island’ left off, Katz doling out sound life advice over a funky bassline and crunchy guitar. The rest of the band sullenly knocking this advice back on backing vocals is an example of the band’s sense of humour found in most of their songs.
The standout for me is ‘Best Life’- A tough call as there is a Dr Dre sample later on in the album. You could say that the robotic repetition of ‘Everything is Normal’ throughout the track is a comment on the way we have had to normalise some pretty horrible stuff in the last few years, but this is a simple music review…not a Ted Talk. The song itself is just really well put together, switching seamlessly from talk-singing through the verses to a melodic chorus and one of my favourite lines of 2021 so far ‘I’m getting a Gucci logo stick and poke, it’s cheaper than therapy!’ *Googles Stick and Poke kit*
It’s very easy to get caught up in the witty lyrics and pop culture references (‘Everybody’s free to drink sunscreen’- Cheekface et al. ‘Crying Back’) and forget that lose sight of the fact that Cheekface are really good musicians and know how to construct a song. There aren’t really any bad songs on this album but one of my favourite songs is ‘(I don’t want to go to) Calabasas. Think if Vampire Weekend put on furlough and were pretty bitter about it.
If there was a song on this album to perfectly describe America in the last couple of years, then ‘Original Composition’ would be it. The juxtaposition of a jaunty tune being whistled over a cheery bassline while singing about climate change and the world collapsing gives that feeling of stumbling blindly into a disaster that I’m sure we have all felt of late.
In short, this is a good album. Enjoyable in its simplicity and just good fun! Would I recommend it? Emphatically.
Order Emphatically No on Bandcamp.