After hearing London quartet Cheatahs‘ S/T debut album and lead-off track The Swan I was hooked in by their obvious love for some of the same bands I followed from the early 90’s. Going backwards I also delved into their first two EPs collected as Extended Plays, and both relived and looked forward to future days of overdriven guitars and dreamy melodies. Since the S/T full length the band has released the Sunne and Murasaki EPs that displayed the band’s willingness to experiment and confound while still slotting in some wildly catchy and bright pop songs.
Which brings us to the sophomore effort that will define Cheatahs, at least until the next EP. Mythologies‘ throughlines are the long, drawn-out vocal harmonies and pop melodies that bridge the years from 60’s-70’s British Rock, to 90’s shoegaze to the modern day computer-as-studio produced genre mashups. For this collection of songs, the band sounds more comfortable and confident in themselves, willing to experiment more with sounds and their presentation. On opener Red Lakes (Sternstunden) there’s hazily blurred vocals, soothing guitars and a German spoken word bit at the end, a bookish and pleasant beginning to the album. Channel View begins with an insistent beat and positively portentous guitars, sliding into a slinky bass groove and back again to the stomp, then the big chorus leaps out in all its power pop glory, and the high continues through to the end. In Flux keeps it upbeat with clanging and buzzing guitars and several types of vocal approaches, still bringing the harmony and melody. On Freak Waves you can practically see the band pogoing in the studio, high on their own music, the guitars swerving over the rhythm section, the peppy vocals fuzzed out until words become besides the point, it’s all about the euphoria.
On the lovely Signs to Lorelei the band experiment with synthesizers, the synth riff becomes the most memorable part of the otherwise wonderful song. Hey, Sen is mainly minor key moping chords, a bit of guitar squall and a touch of positive uplift, the parts confounding when put together. On Colorado the band destroy your speakers with wall-rattling distortion, their guitars almost painfully fuzzed out, swathes of color rise up in the mix and then the bottom drops out, leaving synthesizers to moan and swell majestically. Colorado segues into Su-Pra with spiralling guitars and synths, kick drum booming, bass guitar pumping, guitars freaking out, a wordless voice as another added instrument in the mix, again the band exulting in their sounds.
If there’s a song that knocks you down on your ass in a daze in 2015, let it be Seven Sisters. Bright yet curiously muffled vocals are prominent in the mix, surrounded by flanged strings, vocal “ooohs” and “aaahs”, a powerfully uplifting song even as it hits you with teary echoings, an encapsulation of Cheatahs’ sound: cathartic yet wistful. 紫 (Murasaki) is fast and fun, the vocals sang in Japanese, lines layered poetically, a keening synth line and bass guitar humming along, causing you to bob and flail around frenetically.
On the social media people are divided by Cheatahs’ new album. I applaud their willingness to try new things. It’s refreshing to experience new sounds, whether they’re guitar, synthesizer or voice. Mythologies is the sound of a band enjoying crafting fresh sounds while relying on age-old harmonies and melodies to remind listeners all that is fun and soul-feeding about music.
Dean Reid (Bass, Vocals), James Wignall (Guitars, Vocals), Marc Raue (Drums) and Nathan Hewitt (Vocals, Guitars,Synths)
(by Bret Miller)