This Cheatahs article was written by Joe Turner, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
Reviews of their eponymous debut album accused London-based act Cheatahs of a lack of ambition, being overly in thrall to their nineties shoegaze forebears. Part of the pleasure of that album was its sense of nostalgia and familiarity; with chord progressions, vocal melodies and guitar sounds often hearkening back to classic shoegaze records by My Bloody Valentine and Ride. However, those expecting more of the same on their sophomore effort ‘Mythologies’ will be disappointed to find less of a rock-oriented approach, with the heavier, ‘Loveless’-style guitars being largely replaced by more digital-sounding keyboard hooks.
There is something curiously detached about the band’s performance, particularly lead singer, Nathan Hewitt. Whereas singers such as Julian Casablancas and J Mascis have made a career out of their compellingly jaded vocal delivery, Hewitt’s is more of a studied disinterestedness. The times his vocals sound most engaging are when they are electronically manipulated, as on the opening track ‘Red Lakes (Sternstunden)’ where his vocals are reversed in the verses. This reliance on effects to liven up the vocals is symptomatic of the major issue with the album; too often Cheatahs rely on effects to create a gleaming, hazy surface to disguise a dearth of creative or original music ideas.
The band’s use of electronic effects is most successful on track eight, ‘Colorado’. In the verses, the distorted vocals are buried low in the mix, with a melodic keyboard line providing the musical interest; this is contrasted sharply with a more aggressively distorted instrumental section, with more prominent guitars. As the track progresses the phalanx of distorted guitars and synths becomes more and more saturated until the individual lines are almost impossible to pick out. Then suddenly, at the track’s mid-point, the bottom drops out and we are left with a more serene shimmer of melodic lines, which gradually dissipate and flow into the following track. ‘Colorado’ is the first time that Cheatahs come close to emulating the overwhelming ambient noise of a band like My Bloody Valentine, and the only time on ‘Mythologies’ that their use of effects actually provokes an emotional response.
Besides ‘Colorado’, there are other interesting moments on ‘Mythologies’ – ‘Channel View’ features some memorable guitar work and a solid chorus; ‘Reverie Bravo’ has some attractive vocal harmonies – but too rarely does the music sustain any sense of real emotional depth.
Cheatahs have attempted to replace the more visceral, more conventionally ‘rock’ excitement of their debut with a more cerebral approach; unfortunately, they fail to consistently achieve either.
‘Mythologies’ is out on the 30th October via Wichita Recordings.