EVEN IN JEST – ALBUM REVIEW
There’s a lot to be said for laying your heart bare, and telling it exactly how it is. It takes bravery, modesty and a certain kind of honest energy.
London indie-punk trio cheerbleederz have always been good at doing that, and have shown that once again with their most recent releases: the single Notes App Apologies (which came out on 15th June on Alcopop! Records) and their first ever album, Even In Jest.
The cunningly-titled notes app apologies is a riff on the theme of letting go of an abusive relationship. As the band put it, “There’s a lot of fear and doubt that comes with separating yourself from somebody who manipulates you, and it leaves behind feelings of anger, as well as guilt and doubt. You end up questioning everything while simultaneously harbouring a lot of resentment for the person who treated you that way.”
And how to release and let go of that kind of emotion? Write a kick-ass song about it.
“We wanted this song to feel cathartic and unapologetic—it ultimately feels very healing”, the band say. And fortunately, that catharsis extends to the listener, too. notes app apologies is a really attractive and very listenable song; it has an appealing sense of movement and passion, very effectively conveying a message of frustration and disenchantment with that person who “hides behind band mental health”, without ever taking the time to properly deal with themselves.
cheerbleederz are Kathryn Woods on guitar and vocals, Sophie MacKenzie on bass and vocals, and Phoebe Cross on drums and (you guessed it) vocals. Since their debut releases in 2018, their 2019 offerings and the release of their 2020 EP lobotany, they’ve found an impressive amount of underground success as well as coverage from the likes of GIGWISE, DORK, The Punk Site, BBC 6Music and Radio X. Since then, the band have been working impressively hard towards producing their debut album even in jest, which was finally released on 27th July. It’s worth diving into.
notes app apologies features right near the end of the album, and the record also features two other previously-released songs: cute as hell (described as “a fizzing anthem dedicated to those thirsty early stages of a new crush, perfectly timed for Valentine’s Day”) and nail biters.
But the LP opens with break ur arm which is a deliciously provocative and perversely cheery sounding anthem. It’s packed with fuzzy guitar and rebelliousness, offset by at-times surprisingly sweet lead vocals. Next up is cute as hell, whichcomes in with a feel of acceleration and the outstanding lyric “I’ve changed my underwear 13 times today”and turns into probably one of the catchiest numbers on the record. It leads through into nail biters, a track which really escalates by the end, Kathryn letting go and touching on screaming vocals; and then there’s more catharsis in the next track (my condolences).
The pulsing, warm electro synths are a standout of love/hurt which provides a great centre-piece to the record – a kind of pivot for the music, taking us from the mainly fuzz-punk first half into a slightly more nuanced and mature second part.
Track 6 is out of body, which feels refreshing and reflective, with its subtle changes in time signature and prominent bass lines. Then it’s lazy bones – a slowed down, harmony-rich song (the longest track on the album, at a relatively epic 4 minutes 34 seconds); carbon copy – a much crunchier number, spilling into bouncy euphoria at times, amid some jumpy and angular moments; notes app apologies; and finally, pinwheel, which opens with an air of thrumming mystery and evolves with a very nicely thought-out build, ending in carefully controlled cacophony.
This whole record has plenty of moment of bop-around, head-banging satisfaction as well as dropped-tempo sections, and overall feels like a really well balanced product. cheerbleederz often use lyrical and musical contrasts within their individual songs, offsetting bubbly riffs with some quite dark expositions of inner thoughts, and this effect seems to move throughout the 10 tracks of his album, too. A great debut.
Full track listing
1. break ur arm
2. cute as hell
3. nail biters
4. my condolences
6. out of body
7. lazy bones
8. carbon copy
9. notes app apologies
Words by Phil Taylor