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For a band whose supporting lineup has changed an astonishing five times in six years, it’s shocking that Cheap Time still manages a cohesive third effort with Wallpaper Music. The latest lineup inductees, Ryan Sweeney and Cole Kinnear, join founding member Jeffery Novak, whose band beginnings once boasted the likes of Be Your Own Pet’s Jemima Pearl and Nathan Vasquez. Even amidst the continued lineup changes, the vicious punk remains as crowd pleasing as ever.
Picking up the pace that lagged in their sophomore effort, Fantastic Explanations (and Similar Situations), the band turns Novak’s vocals into a snarled centerpiece, their grimy riffs and ear-shattering feedback serving as a purposefully accentuated backing. The grungy kick start in “More Cigarettes” probably isn’t referencing their musical ideals when Novak spits “we’re shaking all the notions up,” but this Tennessee outfit’s latest effort sees a definite revamp of their sound.
Wallpaper Music‘s unexpected bursts of energy and blistering guitar constantly grab your attention, entrapping listeners in the 1970′s punk-inspired destruction. “Straight Narrow” brings a menacing fury in screaming guitar lines, much like Australian rockers The Saints, while the sludgy waltz of the dialed down “Take It If You Want It” hearkens back to Brit punksters Magazine. Even when influence turns intimidating, like the menacing weave of guitar turned psychedelic swirl on “Another Time”, or Novak’s signature sneer leading through riff-rampant raucousness on “Night to Night”, the disarray is enough to appease listeners without losing them in sloppy self-indulgence.
Cheap Time isn’t ready to completely ditch their punk, but it’s clear that the band is beginning to look beyond a sound rooted entirely in scuzz, and to experiment with new ideas that hint at a future for a band whose future is often so uncertain. Some experiments, like the twangy spring of “Witches in Stock” succeed, while others, such as the lengthy closer “Underneath the Fruit Flies”, falter in unnecessary solo shredding and repetitious chants, more likely to inspire boredom than a riot.
While it remains to be seen whether this latest incarnation of Cheap Time will change come their next release, fans have enough in Wallpaper Music to satisfy their craving for now.