Written by Maria Arroyo
The L.A.-based indie rock group, Cheekface, drops their sophomore record, Emphatically No, out now via New Professor. Cheekface is composed of Greg Katz (vocals/guitar), Amanda Tannen (vocals/bass), and Mark “Echo” Edwards (drums).
The trio is influenced by great American talk-singers like Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman and Stephen Malkmus, British post-punk bands like Wire and The Fall, and proto-indie bands like The dB’s and Minutemen. Cheekface’s second album marches to the beat of their own drums. Elements like hooks and catchy basslines, along with the “cut-and-paste production stunts that pop up periodically in their recordings” set the tone for the band’s unique sound.
Their opening track, “Listen to Your Heart,” begins with a strong rhythmic drive that keeps things moving in a fun and free kind of way. However, sometimes the lyrics don’t fit together quite right, but I think their point to keep it entertaining and for listeners to not harp on those emotionally-driven lyrics so much.
“Best Life” has a funky little guitar riff that stands out pretty well. While I’m not a huge fan of how they write their music, I can respect that it’s their signature sound, so I can appreciate it in that aspect.
Another song that has a bit of flare in the instrumentation is “Crying Back.” Again, not as lyrically cohesive as I’m used to, but fun nonetheless.
“Call Your Mom” is meant to show the “fascist government’s grip on the attention economy,” whereas “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Calabasas” is about the “groaning hypocrisy of political discourse.” I’ve also learned that you can’t take their lyrics too literal, because I really don’t think that’s what their purpose is for, but rather to bring attention to a lot of the turmoil that the government and politics create for us. Another song soaked in witty banter and political satire is “Original Composition.”
Their next track “Emotional Rent Control” is a little favorite of mine, both execution wise and what they managed to cover theme-wise. This track about managing your mental health is the turning point of the album for me, and I finally can feel myself connecting with their music. Mental health, especially now is slowly becoming a more talked about topic, and its creatives like Cheekface that help raise awareness to it, no matter how uncomfortable. “Emotional Rent Control” is a damn good song that so many people, including myself, can relate to.
“Loyal Like Me” has a cool fuzz-like sound to it that highlights a more indie-pop-punk side of the trio. It was definitely refreshing to have something a little dirtier sounding for this album. Emphatically No‘s final track “Don’t Get Hit By A Car” finishes off as one huge ass rant, where they take this opportunity to complain and expose everything that going wrong in our society right now, and I’m definitely always down for that.
Cheekface uses Emphatically No as their way of “toeing the line between sending up society and turning the scrutiny on themselves.”
“No one else is the punchline of these lyrics, even if you recognize some of the characters in the songs,” Katz says. “If me and Mandy are poking fun at anyone, it’s us.”
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