If you’ve been following London, England quartet Cheatahs on social media over the last little while, you’ll no doubt have noticed that they’ve been having a hell of a time on tour. To back up a bit, they almost didn’t make it over to North America earlier this month, with work Visa problems stalling the arrival of UK-born vocalist/guitarist James Wignall and German drummer Marc Raue on our shores. A few cancelled shows later, those members were eventually reunited with Alberta-raised vocalist/guitarist Nathan Hewitt and U.S. citizenship-carrying bassist Dean Reid to play some concerts. In a forehead-slapping turn of events, the party was halted once again this week when, as they explained over Facebook, their tour van “imploded outside Springfield.” After some repairs, they’re back on the road, but they’ve gone ahead and dubbed the troubled trip the “Murphy’s Law” tour.
It’s not all bad for the crew, though. Their fantastic sophomore set Mythologies has just arrived. According to a press release, the album takes its title from French literary theorist Roland Barthes’ 1957 collection of the same name, which weighed in on the creation of myths. It’s a fitting focus, even if it’s not how the band may have intended. Along with the album’s solid foundation of shoegazing indie pop, the recent round of Sisyphean tour snafus will help shape the lore we apply to the band in the years to come.
Despite Mythologies being just their second full-length release since starting up in 2009, Cheatahs have been plenty busy issuing short-form releases. This year alone, they delivered both the Sunne and Murasaki EPs. The latter’s Japanese-sung title track re-appears on Mythologies, and it’s a heady whirl of fuzz-obliterated six-strings, throbbing drums and sun-melted keyboard tones. Save for the dialect, it’s a combination Cheatahs explore throughout the album.
Though it’s not a full-on salute to My Bloody Valentine, the rippled synths and goopy guitar work of outstanding opener “Red Lakes (Sternstunden)” definitely lean towards an early ’90s way of doing things. “Hey Sen” floods the senses with its layers of muffled melodies, Byrds-ian vocal harmonies and an affinity for blue whale-approximating feedback. “Colorado” likewise plays it in-the-red with an energetic crash-and-bang of drums and ear-blistering washes of string noise, though it veers off into arguably the album’s most mellow moment, which plays out as a sonar ping-styled drone. It’s chill approach is rivaled only by “Mysteci,” a lovely-and-lysergic
Mythologies likes to have it both ways. The ebb and flow of the LP allows for tranquility and high tension, often in the same song. Contemplate, for instance, how luscious and ‘lax the band’s vocal runs are in “Deli Rome,” a track which’s bursts of string damage, skittering synth play, and furiously mashed beats could herald the next Great Fire.
While it may be referencing anything from My Bloody Valentine, to Ride, to Swervedriver–Hewitt’s Canadian heritage could even be allowing Smeared-period Sloan to creep in the mix–Mythologies is a solid addition to the present day shoegazers’s songbook.
review by Gregory Adams