Cheap Time - Wallpaper Music Review
Posted by C.A. Bell on 05.14.2012
Is it possible that the best punk band in the world is from Tennessee? 411's C.A. Bell takes a look at the newest release from Southern glam-punkers Cheap Time. Find out if he thinks they've got what it takes.
Release Date: May 1, 2012 Running Time: 39:33 Label: In The Red Records Genre: Punk Rock Revival Key Tracks:
"Hall of Mirrors"
"Night to Night"
"Witches in Stock"
Tennessee punk trio Cheap Time have been floating around since 2006. Leader Jeffrey Novak formed the group after the collapse of his previous group, The Rat Traps, with Be Your Own Pet's Jemina Pearl on bass and Nathan Vasquez on drums. Pearl and Vasquez left the band to concentrate on Be Your Own Pet, and were replaced by bassist Stephen Braren and drummer Jon Sewell. Early in 2008, the revamped Cheap Time issued a 7" on Douche Master in advance of their self-titled full-length on In the Red, which arrived that spring. Ryan Sweeney replaced Sewell on drums starting in 2009, when the band issued the Woodland Drive/Penny & Jenny single and toured with Yo La Tengo. Cheap Time returned with Fantastic Explanations (And Similar Situations), a slightly more structured and complex set of songs, in 2010. Other critics suggest that the band's sound is reminiscent of early Red Kross and The Runaways, but I disagree. To me Cheap Time's third full-length release, Wallpaper Music (recorded in Novak's home studio), is culling pure firstwave punk. It is also one of the most fun listens I've had all year.
The old-school references are all right on the cuff. You have the New York Dolls ("Hall of Mirrors"), the Sex Pistols ("Another Time"), and the obligatory Iggy Pop swagger ("Straight & Narrow"). With all of swirling through the record however, the single largest sound companion for Wallpaper Music is the fantastic and still underheard late-70's British punk band The Stranglers. The dance friendly driving bass and Novak's prize of the id vocals make the straight line from a song like "More Cigarettes" to "(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)" easy to draw. I think that reference alone makes the band unique in our modern cesspool of Ian Curtis neophytes. But, Cheap Time's music has more going for it than references. They carry a modern sound with that raw energy that feels like a proper second coming of The Strokes (or where that band should have gone, at least). The music isn't overfiltered or studio effected to death, leaving a pure rock energy that is absent from too many modern day indie productions. Couple that with some brilliant drumming from Vasquez on "Dream It Up" and "Hall of Mirrors" (I thought he might blow my headphones off), and now we're talking.
As one might expect, the largest successes and failures of Wallpaper Music are found in the places where they step furthest from the historical reference points. "Witches in Stock" is a quirky, jaunty, glam-esque send-up that features the album's only prominent use of acoustic guitar, and is my favorite single track on the record. "Night To Night" has a closest relative the the dance punk of David Johansen's post-Dolls solo work. The only dragging spot is the closing track, "Underneath the Fruit Flies". The group is trying to utilize some of the spacy textures that are so in vogue these days, and I admire them for stretching out. But, the single biggest selling point of this record for me is that it is so many leagues away from the typical 'sad pap' that we subject ourselves to every week. I don't want Cheap Time to create an environment for me. I want them to burn one down. On the rest of the record, they do a more than satisfactory job of that. I'll be coming back to Wallpaper Music more often than almost anything I've heard this year. Beyond getting stuck on a meaningless 'Best of 2012' list, this is a record that proves rock & roll is still alive. That's worth a least a few listens, right?
The 411: Cheap Time's Wallpaper Music is pure fun. The album drips with swagger and is reminiscent of the best punk ever made. I can't even begin to describe how exciting this listen is. If you like guitars, buy this.