Los Angeles indie rock trio Cheekface deconstruct modern anxiety with their excellent sophomore album, ‘Too Much To Ask.’
Stream: Too Much To Ask – Cheekface
“We need a bigger dumpster, and a book of matches,” Cheekface singer Greg Katz sings in the chorus for the second song on the band’s latest album, Too Much To Ask. All at once the album feels like a perfect encapsulation of the bumbling sense of anxiety stewing under the surface of so many people in the modern era. Whether they’re tackling international war or just feeling “so weird,” Cheekface confront them all with both indie rock groove and occasionally lighthearted lyrics to help the medicine go down.
From the get-go, the band kick off with a punky flare, but their tunes merge aspects of early aughts indie rock and post-punk, emo revival, and a bit of dance music. The instrumentals perfectly match Katz’s talky singing style, which has a bit of comedic pacing to it, merging from fast-paced verses and slacker swagger.
While the catchy tunes are enough to get up and dance to, Katz delivers lots of memorable lines that shift between in-depth explorations of issues plaguing the average American with a dash Chuck Klosterman-esque irony to ultra-bouncy breakup anthems.
The opening track “When Life Hands You Problems” hits both ease. Beginning with efforts to inform and do more than just performative activism, but by the second verse, there’s quips about not getting matches on Tinder. All this is done with a bit of tongue-in-cheek irony, as the outro begins, “Life hands you problems, make problemade.”
I am always working but I don’t have any money
You’re always telling jokes but none of them are funny
I am folding pamphlets and disturbing the peace
You are painting signs that say ‘De-Friend the Police.’
As Cheekface navigate a number of social and political issues, they offer slogans ready for an audience to sing them back, like the refrain of “You always want to bomb the Middle East” in the song of the same name. One of the most honest commentaries on the hopelessness of American politics comes on the Sidney Gish-featuring “Election Day,” where the chorus cleverly deconstructs the “lesser of two evils” debacle. “For the garbage man, election day is still garbage day anyway,” Katz sings.
While there’s a lot of heavy subject matter, there’s also enough silly moments that poke fun at checkpoints that most listeners can catch. Take “Featured Singer,” which veers very closely to being an LCD Soundsystem parody, Katz quips about wanting make bank by collaborating with a hotshot EDM artist, a la “Losing My Edge.” He also plays off Das Racist’s “Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell” in the first line of “I Feel So Weird!” a line that some listeners may only recognize from TikTok, but smirking just enough as he continually asks questions for his therapist.
I didn’t start the bonfire of the vanities
But I’m tossing in my clothes and my humanity
And once a year, I act like I was glad I was born
Despite the examinations of politics (both scene and nationwide), personal worries make their way to the surface, just adding more to the dumpster fire. Just a reminder that even when there’s tons to be angry or upset about, there’s always the personal anxiety lurking even deeper down. “Next To Me” is the biggest sing-along with an instantly able to latch onto hook, while being bummed about a breakup (with a Pavement fan). Even “Friends” dissects the social vampires, who you’re going to run into, who you simply don’t want to be pals with.
There are so many days that it can feel like everything is getting worse, and you’re given the choice of collapsing in, or doing your best to right it.
Sometimes part of doing the work includes some quips about the issues, delivered with a smirk. Cheekface might remind about all the issues that we’re still facing, but at least, there’s some dancey tunes to inspire you.
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📸 © Miriam Brummel
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