Cheekface: Emphatically No. (New Professor) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, March 27th, 2023  

Emphatically No.

New Professor

Feb 01, 2021 Cheekface
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“Everything is normal/Everything is normal.” Cheekface repeat the line over and over with a carefully constructed disaffected monotone to open “Best Life,” the second track on their sophomore record, Emphatically No. It immediately recalls one of the most grating phrases of the past year: “the new normal.” Of course, the constantly dogpiling crises of the past few years aren’t normal, or at least they shouldn’t be. But that mundane limbo of adjusting to constant disaster is where Cheekface operates best. Beneath the deadpan humor, reference-filled one-liners, and wry satires of late 20s disillusionment, the band is constantly trying to find how to go about daily life while the world is seemingly melting down.

The LA-based trio first debuted in 2019 with Therapy Island, establishing the band’s simple but effective formula. Start with lyric dense talk-singing from frontman Greg Katz, add in groovy basslines and melodic backup from Amanda Tannen, and finish with danceable rhythms from drummer Mark “Echo” Edwards.“ Katz’s delivery does bear some resemblance to fellow talk-singers such as Lou Reed or Stephen Malkmus. Yet, he also has a particular millennial disaffection, covered in layers of irony that feels unique to Cheekface. The monotone delivery won’t be for everyone, but the band balances the style with some impressively sharp melodies as well. Tannen’s backing vocals and the band’s sing-along choruses provide some decidedly catchy hooks.

Emphatically No. doesn’t blow up that formula, but it does prove to be more elastic, taking from Minutemen and The Cars as much as from Pavement and Parquet Courts. “Call Your Mom” sees Cheekface at their most punk, tearing through the track with a wiry tension and guitar solo from Devin McKnight of Maneka and Speedy Ortiz. Later, the band also takes a spacey detour, reverb-drenched detour on “Do You Work Here?” Generally though, the band doesn’t stray too far from classic punk and indie influences, packaging them in a strutting mid-tempo walk, punctuated by sunny surf rock guitar lines and groovy bass riffs. It’s a reliable, if well-worn, mesh of influences, but the slacker-indie style is still capable of some inspired instrumental moments, such as the earworm riff and bell loop on “Wedding Guests.”

Where Cheekface truly sets themselves apart, though, is the band’s sharp lyrics and sardonic wit. The band nail absurdist satire, poking fun at empty materialism, desperately ignoring impending disaster, and coping with mental illness“I’m getting a Gucci logo stick-and-poke/It’s cheaper than therapy!” The band are masters of instantly quotable, Twitter-ready punchlines, delivered through Katz’s dry deadpan. Give it time and some of these couplets are bound to show up as tattoos.

But, as Katz notes on the opener, “Just because it’s funny doesn’t make it a joke.” Beneath the blithe one-liners is a familiar sense of mundane dread that has become part of daily life. Sometimes that dread bursts through into desperation, as on “No Connection” when Katz sings, “I’m announcing loudly, ‘I don’t know what’s going wrong!’/I tried turning it off and then turning it back on/Do I look better when I’m suffering?/There’s no connection.” But equally often, the band express an apathetic sense of misdirection, as on “Original Composition”“The climate changed and I left it on read/The bees died off and I left it on read.” In isolation, the band’s lyrics can seem like just a series of clever one liners. However, taken together they’re easily read as a reaction against towering systems that leave the average person powerless to change much of anything, and a self-aware critique of the band’s own failings.

Are there answers to all these frustrations? If there are, Cheekface doesn’t have them. But the band seems to recognize that sometimes the best you can do is laugh, preferably with a few friends along the way. To that end, Emphatically No. is unabashed absurdist joy, brought to life by the band’s upbeat instrumentals and tight rhythm section. Though everything is certainly not normal, no other band translates our ongoing existential crises into danceable fun quite the way Cheekface does. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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