Forming an indie band these days seems to be less a question of striving to create your own unique sound and more one of picking a production style you quite like from twenty years ago and attempting to recreate it in a modern studio. I have remarked on here before that, tempting though it might be, this is basically the artistic equivalent of dressing a blow up doll as your ex-girlfriend and attempting to shag it - what on the surface appears to a satisfactory reproduction of the genuine article soon turns out to be somewhat underwhelming once the novelty wears off (and no I'm not speaking from experience....apart from if we're talking about music, in which case I most certainly am). This slight isn't specifically directed at Cheatahs, whose debut is an intriguing slab of nu-gaze that bears more than a passing resemblance to early 90s fuzz merchants Swervedriver, it's more a general remark directed at bands mining that particular period for inspiration - I remember first discovering all those bands during Saturday morning airings of the ITV Chart Show and repeated tributes leave me thinking I'm still eleven years old, hovering on the cusp of adolescence and slowly coming to terms with the death of my childhood. It's a slightly bewildering sensation and one that leaves me wondering if my liking for all the new bands pedalling this shtick is basically just symptomatic of my desire to remain stranded in arrested development and unable to survive in the adult world. Why can't I tear myself away from the shitty computer graphics and oft inaccurate factual content of that gateway to a new musical universe? Is there some hidden meaning here? Have those moments ever been truly replaced????
Ahem. I'm straying from the point here. Cheatahs are a bunch of dudes from nowhere in particular who are clearly amped on sun-soaked indie rock from back in the day and their debut would be an admirable addition to the canon of many of their most obvious influences. There's plenty of the aforementioned Swervedriver, particularly their oft overlooked second LP 'Mezcal Head' from '93 which slid down the back of the sofa in the UK in the wake of shoe gaze's commercial demise whilst making a moderate dent on the North American underground - their laid-back delivery and flair for wall of noise distortion sweetened with melodic honey pushes the same buttons as the Swervies and if you're into guitar music that makes you want to lie back on a gentle beer buzz in the glorious sunshine then this could be right up your alley. They keep it pretty groovy and lolloping for the most part which is cool, perhaps too cool in parts as the record begins to wash over you after a while - the problem with the original shoegaze bands was always that they made killer EPs but the full lengths often came across as a bit thin on ideas and that's perhaps truly in places here. It's a trend Cheatahs risk perpetuating if they get too complacent, their twin EP releases from last year condensed their charms to shorter, more intense blasts for a more satisfying blast of golden noise - 'The Swan' is included from their debut EP and it's by far the strongest track here, a gorgeous rush of sunshine indie rock reminiscent of the sweetened crunch of Dinosaur Jr and Bob Mould's Sugar along with Swervedriver's own 'Son of Mustang Ford'. They haven't quite got enough in the tank to fill twelve tracks but there's plenty here that will come to vivid life in the live arena if they are prepared to work for their fame - this sort of stuff works best when spewed out at high volume to audiences who are several beers deep and up for having their senses fried. In the meantime the LP will do for now but they'd be well advised not to rest on their laurels, there's always a thirst for this sort of stuff but time will tell whether they can make a dent in an already overcrowded market.