Cheekface – ‘Emphatically No’ album review

Cheekface kick off 2021 with the release of their second album, ‘Emphatically No’. The Los Angeles trio – made up of Greg Katz, Amanda Tannen and Mark ‘Echo’ Edwards – are renowned for their wry, witty and observational lyrics and throughout this album, they offer up opinions on mental health, fascist governments and political hypocrisy.

The record kicks off with ‘”Listen to Your Heart”, “No”‘, an anxiety emo-pop anthem that falls in the sweet spot somewhere between Fountains of Wayne and A Great Big Pile of Leaves: ‘Take a good idea and do it too much’; ‘Maybe a giant pretzel can make you feel better?’; ‘Just say no to drugs – No!’. ‘Best Life’ quickly follows with a spoken-word interlude about applying for a job that supposedly welcomes creatives and writers that work remotely. However, things might not be all they’re cracked up to be: ‘They say smiling is contagious, but so is yawning’. ‘Call Your Mom’ showcases a punkier sound with fuzzy guitar solos thrown into the mix as the band remind you to ‘keep the receipt if you want to return life’s gift to the mall – a canary in a goldmine’.

‘What is a stalker but a friend that you don’t like?’ is one of the opening lines in the Jeffrey Lewis-style ‘Crying Back’ (it also contains a warning that ‘This song is not medical advice’) while ‘Wedding Guests’ moves into slacker-pop territory as the band take aim at our throwaway celebrity-obsessed culture and explain how ‘life is long like a CVS receipt’. After an initial declaration of ‘I want to overthrow the government – or at least the bad part’. ‘Original Composition’ looks at the climate crisis (‘They don’t recycle your Sprite bottles anymore, don’t need a weatherman to know’) before bursting into an unexpectedly delightful whistling solo. The jaunty bass line on ‘No Connection’ surrounds some of Greg’s innermost thoughts: ‘My new therapy is just thinking about my friends, maybe that’s what it’s like to miss someone’. This continues through to ‘Emotional Rent Control’ – ‘I am eating like it’s Thanksgiving but without the gratitude’ – a Los Camp-esque song that looks at the negative effects our focus on consumerism has on all of us: ‘I am young, dumb and full of psychiatric medication’.

‘Loyal Like Me’ is a melodic piece that shows just how far Cheekface are prepared to go to stick by their loved ones (‘I do drugs off my friends’ bodies’) while also trying to avoid levels of responsibility – ‘I’m done sitting next to this dumpster fire. Can you put it out after I’ve gone?’ before the record comes to a close with ‘Don’t Get Hit By a Car’. As Greg muses on how there’s now ‘an emoji for each stage of grief’, they also look at the wider picture: ‘Sometimes I wonder if a single good thing exists on Earth and then I eat cinnamon toast crunch’. This song also contains what we think might be one of the lyrics of the year: ‘Of course I relate to Lena Dunham. I relate to every annoying genius’.

‘Emphatically No’ gets an Emphatic Yes from us.

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