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Album Review: Cheap Girls - Giant Orange

This time last year Rise Records was primarily known for being home to some of the best metalcore bands in the genre, twelve months later the face of the label has changed completely. Key signings such as Make Do And Mend, Daytrader and heavyweights Hot Water Music, means Rise Records is now just the home of good music, period. Needless to say some of the labels latest acquisitions didn’t go down well with the label ‘faithfuls’ and perhaps the most derided of them all were Michigan natives Cheap Girls. Widely adored by the punk scene however, their previous two releases have been showered in praise, but the “everyday guy” look of the band and lack of “beatdowns” mean they just aren’t “in”. But who cares? It’s about the music, and "Giant Orange" is full of brilliant, catchy music.

"Giant Orange" is the embodiment of that late-90’s college rock sound, from Ian Graham’s Caterer-aping vocals to the distinctive distortion of Adam Aymor’s guitarwork. There isn’t much of an overall departure in sound from their previous two albums, but there is a noticeable difference in the production. Despite the fact that Tom Gabel is once again at the helm, the rawness of previous efforts has been rounded off. This won’t be to everyone’s approval, but it works as it allows for the bands pop tendencies to really shine through. Tracks like the brilliant "Communication Blues" would have lost some of their magic had the old production values still applied.

There is no question that Cheap Girls are fans of The Smoking Popes (The track "Ruby" is pretty much a homage); all ten tracks that are on offer display elements of the Chicago legends, but are bolstered by their own little nuances. Opening track ‘Gone All Summer’ is a top drawer opener; it displays all the elements of the referenced season, and is the most driving of the ten tracks on offer. Lyrically, it gives an insight into Ian Graham’s “happy with who I am” manifesto. Where there is a tendency in the genre towards melancholy self-criticism, Cheap Girls tend to avoid this instead favoring a more positive outlook like on "If You Can’t Swim". The exception is perhaps the stripped back "Cored To Empty" which takes its cue from "Her And Cigarettes" from their debut album. The double salvo of "On/Off Switch" and "Pacer" are the albums pinnacle and demonstrate a real comfort with the band’s sound.

Cheap Girls have always been a band that should be more popular. The move to Rise coupled with the more polished production should deservedly open the band up to a new audience. For longtime fans of the band "Giant Orange" simply represents more of the same, but as the adage goes “If it ain’t broke…”.

4/5

"Giant Orange" is available now through Rise Records.

Dan Issitt