Inevitably the curse of any post-Loveless shoegaze release is its comparison to the Dublin legends My Bloody Valentine’s sophomore effort. Even the most casual shoegaze and dream-pop listener will know of the ‘Big Three Albums’ and compare, whether unknowingly or otherwise the record before them to any or all of these albums. This results in a general sense of disinterest in the majority of newer gaze releases. “I only like Loveless”. “Why bother listening to something different? I just want another Valentines album”.
Thankfully it’s albums like the Cheatahs’ new record Mythologies that makes you happy you branched out and sampled some of the newer shoegaze and dream-pop influenced acts. Mythologies is by no means a tried and true gaze album, however it’s got plenty of moments to satisfy listeners while also bringing something new to the table. It’s a nice mix of lots of great British indie and alternative music with, of course, an emphasis on the swirling, gorgeous sonic textures that exemplify shoegaze and dream-pop.
Solid moments of bona fide indie music are peppered throughout the record. The opener “Red Lakes (Sternstunden)” grooves along nicely with the first of these moments. The chorus is clearly the highlight of the track with a killer stop/start synth-pop drum beat slowed down to match the lilt and dreaminess of the vocals. “Red Lakes” even ends in traditional shoegaze fashion: with a thick wall of distortion that surges around the drums as a German spoken word track plays in the background.
One of Cheatahs weaknesses is that on a basic level they’ve mastered the art of being a quaint indie band. Songs like “Channel View” and “Hey Sen” clearly owe their sound to shoegaze and dream-pop, there’s no denying that, but Cheatahs make extensive use of indie guitar riffs, builds and loud/quiet/loud Pixie style dynamics. While indie pop and shoegaze mix well on this record the result is a clear divide between which genres each of the tracks exemplifies.
The real gaze moments are clearly the focus here however. The strongest tracks are the ones that unashamedly call back to big, loud and furious My Bloody Valentine style shoegaze. Some of the comparisons are definitely uncanny. The intro on “Signs to Lorelei” sounds an awful lot like “Touched” off Loveless and the drum beat dances and moves, if only for a moment, like one of the groovier, early nineties, acid house influenced gaze records. That said it’s still one of the better tracks of the album. The vocals don’t get buried in the verse and the chorus, surprise, brings back that “Touched” style riff with some fleeting and breathy vocal lines.
“Colorado” follows along the same lines with a punishing and wonderfully thick, fuzzed out guitar line that ends all too soon. This seems to be Cheatahs curse: nothing gold ever stays. The best moments on this record, the most wonderful gaziest moments are far too short. The material is there for a full on shoegaze and dream-pop album but the band hasn’t reached that point yet. The indie rock tracks are far to indie and the gaze tracks are far to gaze. They’re easily distinguishable and make the album hard to categorize. Are they an indie rock band flirting with gaze or vice versa? Not to say that Cheatahs do one better than the other, they could fall either way and the record would still be solid release. The fact that it’s unclear makes the record meander a bit.
Cheatahs could make a truly great shoegaze album. Sure it might be panned as another Loveless clone, but that just means that the shoegaze and dream-pop community is old, tired and unable to move beyond Loveless, Nowhere and Souvlaki. As far as I’m concerned the Cheatahs should stick with what they know and at this moment it seems to be shoegaze.
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