Just to get one blindingly obvious thing clear right off the bat here: if you’re a young band taking most of your cues from My Bloody Valentine, then it probably behooves you to adopt a similarly bloody-minded attitude as Kevin Shields when it comes to the idea of making concessions on volume or intensity.
Last year’s Yuck record, Glow and Behold, was largely in thrall to the Irish noiseniks, but succeeded only in offering up an imitation so pale that it bordered on sacrilege. If you want to use deafening guitars to make something beautiful, you’d better have the energy to back it up. Cheatahs might not have done anything especially new on their debut record, but they’ve delivered it in such incendiary fashion that it’s impossible to ignore.
Even the cover of this album manages to channel Loveless; just as the arrestingly lush pink hue of that artwork seemed, so intangibly, to correlate to the sound of the record it prefaced, Cheatahs’ accompanying image - a fiery rage of deep pastel reds in the desert - burns with the same vivacity as the album’s 12 tracks. There’s no question, then, that this record’s a throwback, but it’s hard to complain when a band manages to pack so many different influential touchpoints into one album; think of Cheatahs as doing for shoegaze-tinged rock what Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold did for Pavement-esque riffs last year.
Most of the record is built around a foundation of heavy reverb and washed out vocals, but there’s plenty of nods to bands that didn’t follow that particular blueprint; there’s a touch of Eighties Bunnymen to the guitars on ‘Geographic’, and closer ‘Loon Calls’ toys with the sort of dainty guitar lines that characterised so many albums by American emo bands of the Nineties; Sunny Day Real Estate and American Football spring to mind pretty quickly.
In fact, the relatively subdued nature of that last track provides evidence that Cheatahs have a keen sense of where is best to ease off the gas just a little; it’s something that becomes increasingly obvious with repeat listens. It’s those little nuances - the ambient two-minute outro to ‘Kenworth’, the gradual, lackadaisical progression of ‘Mission Creep’, positioned right after an blistering opening hat-trick - that set Cheatahs apart from so many other records that wear their influences on their sleeve in similarly fierce fashion. The last 90 seconds of ‘The Swan’ is plucked straight from Interpol’s ‘PDA’ - guitars chiming over shimmering feedback - but the effect is irresistible, however derivative it might be.
It’s actually surprising, all things considered, that bands like Cheatahs seem to crop up fairly infrequently; bands that draw very heavily on decades-old influences, but that do so with just enough guile, just enough invention, that you can’t help but be taken in by them. They’ve struck a neat balance on this record between fast and loose punk rock - ‘Northern Exposure’, lead single ‘Get Tight’ - and more explorative territory, as evidenced on slow-burning centrepiece ‘IV’. What permeates all of it, though, is the genuinely overwhelming energy of youth - something that so many of their contemporaries lack. And given that the My Bloody Valentine comparisons are inevitable, I might as well state this for the record - nothing on m b v grabbed me quite like this terrific debut has.
8Joe Goggins's Score