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Key Tracks: "Manhattan on Mute," "Cored to Empty"
Everyone knows a local act they want to succeed. Standing at the band's feet as they play a favorite bar is an intimate experience. Sometimes a little banter in between songs brings camaraderie, a feeling of being in on something others don't know about. Rooting for the underdog local bands against what's on the radio is a very communal thing.
It's a futile effort, though. The band at the bar is going to break up when money gets tight, or when money's too good at their nine to five jobs to really care about playing downtown. But how did Cheap Girls get past this stage? Their third album, Giant Orange, isn't a poor effort, but it lacks anything that would distinguish the music from the usual stuff a band is playing while you're trying to get the bartender's attention for another drink.
Giant Orange is fine, but anyone who knows their local music scene can probably think of a few unsigned bands that could trade places with Cheap Girls. The album displays a lot of energy in the instrumentation, particularly in the drums. Foot-tapping, head-bobbing music that would be good for a long car ride. But as the tracks keep coming, the listener begins to wonder, Didn’t I already listen to this song?
The song that stands out best is “Manhattan on Mute.” The vocal tracks complement each other well, while the harmonies on the rest of the album seem to be placed haphazardly. Ian Graham’s lead vocals are still a little limp, but as he strains a bit to hit the higher notes, we get a little more energy out of him as a result.
The album’s only acoustic track, “Cored to Empty,” showcases the band’s subtler side, with a stripped-down approach and a rolling lyrical melody. But Graham’s singing cheapens its sentimentality. When he sings, “I’m not much better now,” the quality in his voice says, “Yeah, but whatever…”
The members of Cheap Girls show a lot of passion for their music. Attending one of their concerts is sure to be a fun time. But if you see a copy of Giant Orange lying out in your little sister’s room, let her borrow your Pink Floyd albums. She’ll thank you later on.
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