Los Angeles band Cheekface has returned with their sophomore album Emphatically No. and it is an entertaining listen from front to back. It is an album that completely soars on its lyrics as guitarist/talk singer Greg Katz provides a swagger mix of humor and honesty as the band tackles all kinds of relatable subjects like mental health, politics and simple facts of life.
All killer and no filler is a very tongue in cheek way to describe this record but totally fitting that you immediately hear in the opening track “Listen To Your Heart.” “No.” When the chorus kicks in and the call and response takes over basically rejecting all things you typically hear “Listen to your heart (no), Keep on keeping on (no), Just say “no” to drugs (no), Eat a healthy lunch (no), Draw outside the lines (no), Pay your parking tickets (no), Buy one get one free (no), Turn the other cheek (no)” you can’t help but sing along. Plus, you combine that catchy delivery with the foot tapping beat, bass and guitar and you instantly will want to hear it again. On the upbeat “Best Life” you get honest takes on the current remote living we all are enduring with lines like “in the future, everyone will be my friend for 15 minutes and we’ll look amazing when we’re in portrait mode” and “we are writers! creatives! we work remotely! i’m getting a Gucci™ logo stick-and-poke, it’s cheaper than therapy!” Once agian, Cheekface wins on sincerity and telling it like it is.
The sound of Cheekface is simplistic but super catchy as the trio is in sync. Think a modernized groove of Cake and Ben Folds type delivery with the punk spirit of Dead Milkmen fronted by Jonathan Richman or Stephen Malkmus. Emphatically No. keeps you in Cheekface’s mindset and will have you cracking a smile around every corner. Like on “Wedding Guests” when Katz plainly states “everything is OK, got my old phone replaced, now i do nothing faster than i did yesterday” which is just so true.
I have not heard that many albums released recently that have such a light mood but still deliver some serious opinions beneath their indie jig. It is amazing how much you take notice when all the instruments sit in the back but create the perfect canvas with a driving bass line and drum beat that keeps your foot tapping. The album cranks out 13 tracks in 35 minutes so Cheekface never wear out their welcome and this is an easy record to revisit just to make sure you have heard every line!
Key Tracks: “Listen To Your Heart.” “No.” / “Wedding Guests” / “No Connection”
Artists With Similar Fire: Dead Milkmen / Cake / Kiwi Jr.
-Reviewed by Thomas Wilde