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Album Review: Cheap Time – Exit Smiles

2 min read

Theres something quite romantic about the idea of the kind of bands who get together with a few instruments, write some songs and record them with whatever equipment they can find or afford. Thus are the ethics of the DIY and indie influenced Garage Rock, a genre that in the past 20 years alone has spawned the likes of Pavement, White Stripes, The Thermals and this year’s lo-fi heroes Parquet Courts, all bands with incredible songs and records that shine through the limited equipment used to make them. Born somewhere within the scene were Nashville trio Cheap Time, a band who have continued over the past 7 years to release album after album of brash guitars, clashing drums and mean vocals, the latest of which being their fifth record, Exit Smiles.

Cheap Time - Exit SmilesIndeed, the characteristically low quality of production is a standard that gives the 8 track LP a rougher and essentially more menacing quality to their gritty punk-tinged tunes. Album opener and title track Exit Smiles enters your ears in full throttle; rock’n’roll guitars, rolling bassline and the relentless bashing of drums taking over your mind.

Singer and guitarist Jeffrey Novak enters with a voice that harks back to his likely idol, Iggy Pop. Indeed, one of the genre’s pioneers with his band The Stooges are an easy influence to pick on throughout the album, with Cheap Time delivering songs such as the mesmerising Country And City and suitably shambolic 8:05 with a recognisable ‘Raw Power’ (pardon the awful pun).

Theres something rather relentless about that album, whilst being a mere 8 tracks, it lasts for a good 35 minutes and sees the band stretching songs out into an elongated cacophony of buzzing noise. Fans of US indie bands Yo La Tengo or perhaps even Sonic Youth will be contented to hear the band mess around on their instruments as Novak creates spiralling counter melodies on his guitar on the track Same Surprise whilst bass player Jessica McFarland provides pounding basslines on the likes of Slow Variety.

One thing that stands in the way of Cheap Time’s efforts to make a complete album is the fact it doesn’t feel very… complete. Unlike their contemporaries, theres not much variety to be found on Exit Smiles and the persistently hard-as-nails sound can prove to feel a little uneventful.

Saying this, Exit Smiles is most likely not intended as a mind altering album of diversity and more a short and sweet gathering of punk rock dittys that will no doubt make for an impressively bombastic showing in concert. Its enjoyably brash and once again proof that killer songs to get the blood pumping don’t rely on an expensive studio or a massive collection of musicians. If the band are after quality and loveable albums however, they might just need to mix it up a little.