Attention, fans of the grunge-pop resurgence we’ve been enjoying for the past few years: stop panicking. Yuck may have lost their grip on the ‘90s-Alt-Revival crown with the departure of frontman Daniel Blumberg and last year’s middling sophomore record Glow And Behold, but Cheatahs are ready and waiting to take the title up for themselves with their self-titled debut.
Like Yuck, Cheatahs are London-based and comprise a melting-pot of different nationalities (Canadian frontman Nathan Hewitt joined by English guitarist James Wignall, American bassist Dean Reid and German drummer Marc Raue), with an overall sound that hovers somewhere over the mid-Atlantic, circa 1990.
Where Yuck’s music often dips into the janglier, poppier territory of the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Yo La Tengo, though, Cheatahs stay pretty faithful to their distortion and reverb pedals. On their album, the dreamy noise of British Creation acts meets the melodic racket of the American underground’s post-Black Flag and pre-Nirvana years; The Scene That Celebrates Itself collides with the Bands That Could Be Your Life. The result is just over 45 minutes of pure, unadulterated late-‘80s-early-‘90s fuzz nostalgia. Time to crack out the oversized t-shirts, grow out your hair and get started on the bedroom fanzines, y’all.
Those who’ve been following Cheatahs since their fuzzily lo-fi 2012 EP releases Coared and Sans will have plenty to like about the album, and many of the tracks on it will already be familiar to fans of the band. Anthemic midpoint track The Swan, on which Hewitt’s distant, unhurried vocals are set against a frenetic guitar riff, appeared on the Sans EP back in 2012, while Fall surfaced last year, the most shoegazey track on the record with its out-of-focus chords and ghostly vocal harmonies – something for lovers of My Bloody Valentine’s gorgeous 1991 song Sometimes to enjoy. Cut The Grass and Kenworth, meanwhile, were released as a double A-side last October: the former punctuating dreamy, Dinosaur Jr-indebted verses and choruses with stormy guitar licks and a drawn-out, noisy interlude of the sort that Ride used to like chucking into their songs early in their career, the latter a riot of Isn’t Anything-esque buzzsaw guitars that evolves into a cavernous wash of sound.
Elsewhere, the album is stuffed with brand new gems – opening song Geographic in particular stands out, a forceful blend of chugging guitars, wistful vocals and a energetic Bastards Of Young-ish riff; the fact it hasn’t been released as a single yet is baffling. Northern Exposure is Cheatahs at their most Dino Jr, while closing track Loon Calls is a fitting culmination of the album as a whole, a downbeat swamp of noise and melody that fades into ringing guitar notes and then disappears altogether.
Like any album with a sound that relies so heavily on the band’s pedalboard, Cheatahs does occasionally get repetitive, and the band do wear their influences unashamedly brazenly on their sleeves – to the extent that their sleeves may as well be day-glo armbands with “Dinosaur Jr and My Bloody Valentine” written on them in block capitals. There’s an effortlessness to their interpretation that stops them from sounding too calculated, though – you get the sense that these are four blokes whose enthusiasm for the grungey alt-rock bands of 20 or so years ago is so great that they can’t stop the influence bleeding into their own music, much as the Gallagher brothers were powerless to do anything about Lennon and McCartney shaping Oasis’ sound. It feels like a celebration, rather than an appropriation, and it’s one that should win over anybody who looks back fondly on the days of universal flannel shirts and ubiquitous Fender Jaguars, whether they were actually alive at the time or not.