Cheatahs singer and guitarist and general lead guy Nathan Hewitt wears his influences proudly on his sleeve. Listening to Cheatahs self-titled LP they echo in every nook and cranny. The fuzzy, tremolo-bent chords, the reverbed and echoing vocals, and the steady pulse of drums and bass moving in unison harken back to a time in the late 80s when bands like My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, Chapterhouse, and Slowdive were making a name for themselves in the UK and abroad as the purveyors of this new kind of loud, abrasive, yet at times very melancholy music called shoegaze. I think Hewitt -originally from Edmonton, Canada but moved to London- had a few of those albums running through his head. Much like bands such as Yuck, Young Prisms, and even Speedy Ortiz, Cheatahs aren’t making something new here, or even re-writing what was already done. What they are doing is writing some great songs in the key of Shields, Bell, and Mascis.
Opening with a short instrumental interlude, the album explodes into “Geographic”, a noisy little number that sounds like Kevin Shields guesting on Doves Lost Souls. Imagine “Catch The Sun” sped up to 45rpms and Kevin Shields doing some of his chord bending magic, then you’d have a good idea of what this song is about. “Northern Exposure”, to the best of my knowledge has nothing to do with the quirky 90s TV show, but it does bring to mind the blown out pop of Teenage Fanclub and the fuzzed-out glee of Bug-era Dinosaur Jr. It’s a great song that also brings to mind Canada’s reigning indie rock Godfathers Sloan as well. “Mission Creep” brings things down a notch, but in no way does it get sleepy. From the get go this is a guitar album, and Hewitt seems to enjoy playing his six-string. Many layers of stomp box-colored guitars paint the canvas here, which seems to extend clear back to the early 90s indie rock heyday. Hewitt’s vocals bring to mind Fountains of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood, had he fronted Straitjacket Fits. “IV” is a real gem. If I didn’t know this was Cheatahs I’d say Kevin Shields was back at it and making a new record. Full of wavering, fuzzy chords and hazy vocals, this track is a mixture of beautiful guitar sonic dizziness and great melancholy pop finesse in the vocals. A shoegaze slacker anthem.
There’s nothing to skip over on this record. Hewitt and Cheatahs seem to have made an album with no filler. From indie fuzz pop(“Get Tight”) to an almost classic rock strut(“The Swan”) and of course shoegaze indifference(“IV”, “Leave To Remain”, “Fall”, “Loon Calls”), Cheatahs is a record to play loudly and frequently. Nathan Hewitt wears his influences proudly on his sleeve, and that’s just fine with me.
8.1 out of 10