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Of all the bands to attempt to revive both shoegazing and grunge since its early nineties heyday, Cheatahs seem to be the ones to successfully hit both nails right on the head. In fact, were this 20 years ago, one listen may might have persuaded Alan McGee to pause mid-bender in order to snap them up. A succinct slice of early Nineties nostalgia, gaining a sense of the contemporary through youthful exuberance and vitality, Cheatahs’ Sans EP finishes as abruptly as it starts, and thus seems to leave almost no room for criticism. Pretty clever, that.
Channelling shoegaze and grunge bands from each side of the pond in a Sub Pop meets Creation stylee, without sounding overly derivative, Sans is a non-stop, joyous thrash from start to finish. Its four tracks brim with abandon; the melodies light-hearted yet sober, the guitar dreamlike yet driven and the vocals breathy but powerful. If this were a couple of years ago, then the last thing that anyone would want is another neo-shoegaze/dreampop band; as it stands Cheatahs’ have somehow come out of this sounding startlingly fresh.
‘Swans’ starts the EP as it means to continue, pretty much setting up the record’s sound and ethos before the first chorus; succinct, catchy pop buried under drums and feedback- no frills or bullshit. A punchy duo of interlocked riffs burst in almost immediately and continue throughout most of the song, the repetition of which, in conjunction with the hazy vocal performance and production, gives proceedings a dreamlike wistfulness. Grungier material is found immediately afterwards on the Dinosaur Jr-esque title track, which crashes in and continues remorselessly throughout. Again, the short opening figure is abrupt, unexpected and brilliant, tying the song together when it is repeated later on, albeit at a higher pitch.
In fact, there is little let up in intensity and tempo on this EP's four songs. In itself, this is no bad thing; however, a full length with consistently up-tempo tracks such as this might become slightly repetitive. But this assumption seems cynical when faced with such sheer energy and brilliant execution. Within seconds of each track starting the band grabs you and doesn’t let go, only to repeat the same abduction technique in the next song. Once deciphered, the lyrics are interesting, with lines like “Taste the chlorine in the water/ as I put on my swimming trunks” on the charmingly naive ‘Fountain Pool’, recalling Nirvana’s earlier material, with childhood memories juxtaposed by crashing feedback and drums.
It is the aforementioned transatlantic influence, as it becomes increasingly apparent, that makes this EP such a good one. With members hailing from the UK, USA, Germany and Canada, it is easy to see why the band’s sound isn’t bound to a particular scene, rather a combination of many which defined an era. It is a refreshing, original change. Now, after several EPs and a recent signing to the consistently good Wichita Recordings - as well as a recent tour with label-mates The Cribs - it seems like Cheatahs are on a deserved upward ascent.