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Cheekface

Sun Oct 30th, 2022 at 7:00PM


Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069

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When we last left the arguably interesting
adventures of Cheekface, they’d released the minor phenomenon
“Emphatically No.” The band’s sophomore album bowed at #1 on
Bandcamp’s alternative and vinyl sales charts, became a college radio staple,
and propelled the L.A. talk-singing trio into packed houses of Cheek Freaks
across the US. So I guess now is a good time for Cheekface to return with their
third LP, “Too Much to Ask.”

You might say “Too Much to Ask” builds
on the strengths of the first two Cheekface albums, but also refines and
evolves their sound a little, and why would I argue with you? The band’s
songwriting battery of guitarist/singer Greg Katz and bassist Amanda Tannen
show their lyrical trademark, a strangely inviting sad and sideways wit, right
from the jump – “life hands you problems, make problem-ade,” they
announce in the almost-unglued 1-minute-25-second album opener “When Life
Hands You Problems” – and then across the record’s 11 tracks, the band
proceeds to make hay out of many of life’s mysteries.

There’s the problematic popularity of quinoa (the
what-if-Stephen-Malkmus-fronted-Television headnodder “Pledge
Drive”), the boundless desires of American imperialists and the political
complacency that enables them (the relentlessly hooky and bleak “You
Always Want to Bomb the Middle East”), the physical toll of daily routine
(“I would get so much done if I didn’t have to sleep anymore, but then I
would be tired,” they observe on The Cars-via-Rosenstock “I Feel So
Weird”), the questionable marketing of a certain quacky soap bottle doctor
(beach-blanket strummer “Election Day,” which features a guest verse
from kindred spirit Sidney Gish), and the seemingly sabotaged pointlessness of
it all – pick any track really, but I like “coffee from the bank Fritos
isn’t free I only want to be with other people like me” from “We
Need a Bigger Dumpster,” a singalong single that exposes Cheekface’s most
fundamental components as clear as a deep-sea fish: a simple drum beat, a nasty
bassline, a neatly catchy guitar riff, a suprisingly memorable chorus, and a
funny fatalistic wisdom that unites it all.

Cheekface – comprising Katz, Tannen, and drummer
Mark “Echo” Edwards – often stick close to the blend of post-punk and
power pop they first explored on 2019 debut “Therapy Island” and
honed across 2021’s “Emphatically No.” But new to this album, the
chatty indie rock outfit lets the music do the talking at times, like in the
winding dance break of LCDesque “Featured Singer,” the explosion of
guitarmonies on “You Always Want to Bomb the Middle East,” and the
majestic Moog melody of album closer “Vegan Water.” These excursions
give more space to the band’s best punchlines and lighten the weight of their
darker thoughts. Meanwhile, pianos and Casio keyboards and cowbells poke their
heads in here and there; there are some cut and paste samples sprinkled around;
some flotsam and jetsam are used as percussion, like a staple gun, a stainless
steel ashtray, an old vinyl suitcase and a clanky folding chair. They also fit
their first ballad on this record, “Election Day,” next to a
screaming 57-second mantra about instant noodles.

But even as Cheekface evolves a little, the album
stays focused on Katz and Tannen’s lyrics about the confounding feeling of the
unmoored present. “I think the last year or two has drawn a big circle
around a lot of things we all already knew, but maybe didn’t know we
knew,” Katz says. “The shock of isolation and the shock of
togetherness, the call to activism and the pull of resignation, wanting the
best for your friends but expecting the worst of yourself. The sneaking feeling
that your life is mostly funny but a little sad a lot of the time – except for
the times when it’s mostly sad but still kinda funny.”

Sad Park

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9081 Santa Monica Boulevard West Hollywood, CA 90069 (Get Directions)

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