‘Sexy National Anthem’ is the latest song in a sequence of infectious, affecting songs from Cheekface. The good news is the track isn’t really sexy, nor is it anything to do with nationalism. However, it does bring together all the elements of Cheekface that we’ve come to expect – and that makes it kinda sexy. And wait; perhaps it should be sung before sports events. We’re just not qualified to make those decisions.
Kicking things off the bass and simple snare pattern sound warm, and something serious is happening. But then a handclap, then a siren whistle. Yippee. We’re really getting into this.
The simplicity of Cheekface tracks is deceptive. The dynamic here comes not from volume, or the trope of loud-and-soft songcrafting that so many trios employ. Instead Amanda Tannen, Greg Katz, and Mark Echo Edwards place even more constraints on themselves. They steer clear of gimmick, or tired emotional plotting. Yes, they use a siren whistle here, but it makes sense in the fabric of things. This is an element of a larger texture, it’s not the cornerstone of a track that cries out for attention. They avoid guitar licks with no melody. They avoid laborious drum fills. Clever contrasts, low-key shifts of range, and lyrics do all of the work.
‘Sexy National Anthem’ concentrates on death, and the passing of things. Previous tracks from Cheekface have carried with them a kind of urgency in the now. Here Katz sings of his own death, and the death of all the things. In parts he insinuates the big picture, in other parts he simply points at details. The focus becomes broader, but also sharper. This isn’t a goth-exploration or self-pitiful account of ‘life’s so bleak’. This is more of an existential swipe at how isolating, and how silly social etiquette can be. And, shit, in looking at everything other than the ‘now’ the ‘now’ becomes somehow more significant. Katz carries himself lightly, but don’t let that kid you. The substance is strong.
At one point the line, “No cops in a world of one / no masters in a world of one” shows the liberation of natural process, and isolation. Later that line is back, but Katz is fucking with us; “No cops in a world of one / no Cheez-Its in a world of one”. Bathos, pathos, and brilliantly personal. It’s a line like this, in a device like this, in a track like this, that makes Cheekface one of the most interesting, moving bands we can dance to, or eat donuts with.
HURRY – BUY – CHEEKFACE MUSIC
PHOTOGRAPH BY MIRIAM BRUMMEL