Cheena’s debut full-length of riotous all-nighter garage-punk may end up being one hangover too far.
Be warned; this is not the cordial invitation to an inoffensive evening of light entertainment it might first appear. Instead, fresh-faced New York rock’n’rollers Cheena use their debut album to take the listener on speed-fueled night-crawl through the grungy underbelly of city life, although they may just end up staying home to “stare at the wall with a bottle of gin” as the lyrics of ‘Car’ suggest.
The darker, more rough-edged elements of early-1980’s American post-punk exercise their gnarly influence throughout the record. The erratic rockabilly drumming and garagey riffing lend to this style, while the vocals lie somewhere between the cool bluesy delivery of Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce and cracked yowls of The Flesh Eater’s Chris Desjardins.
The swelling wall-of-noise slide-guitar of last year’s self titled EP, which made Cheena stand out from the perennial crop of garage-punk rockers being touted by the trendiest indie labels, is unfortunately an afterthought here, though. Becoming more of a weedy twang and less of an expansive technique, its novelty definitely wears thin by the time the goofy hillbilly-voiced ‘Electric Snoopy Gang’ draws to a close.
The boomy, overpowering, sometimes discordant bass riffing also muddies the mix in places, and the vocals are often lost beneath the clamorous drum noise and savage power chords. It’s not surprising the group aren’t particularly preoccupied with polished production, though, with members emerging from hardcore and noise-rock acts like Crazy Spirit, Hank Wood & the Hammerheads and Pharmakon. In any case, it doesn’t stop the gritty ebbing horror-punk of ‘Fever’, the feral stomp of ‘Liberated Animal’, or the forcefully spat ‘Stupor’ from packing a pretty dizzying punch.
With this short sharp half hour Cheena leave a trail of smashed beer bottles, fearful expressions, and broken guitar strings in their wake – and everybody’s invited along for the ride. For fans of sloppy rock’n’roll and snotty punked-up attitude this is sure to be an ecstatic, life affirming experience. For the more fastidious customer, though, this may be one night of decadent tomfoolery that’s not worth the hangover.
‘Spend the Night With… Cheena’ is out now via Sacred Bones Records
This Cheena article was written by Tadgh Shiels, a GIGsoup contributor