Southern Exposure
Cheatahs -

Prince Albert, Brighton - 16th February 2014

Celebrating the release of their debut album six days earlier, Cheatahs stalked into the 100-capacity Prince Albert in Brighton for the third date of their short, UK tour – the first time for the band on the road as a headline act. It has been heartening to see numbers at recent gigs increasing hugely as the alternative scene has come back into favour over the past eighteen months or so. The sold out signs are already up for forthcoming appearances by Speedy Ortiz and Drenge (the third time in a row for the latter) and the Albert is nicely buzzing as the Anglo-Canadian-American-German four-piece take to the stage and open strangely enough with their album's closing track 'Loon Calls'.

For those of us who stood in similar venues in the 1990s watching Swervedriver, Ride, Slowdive and MBV, Cheatahs offer so many reference points it is difficult watching them not to feel you are being transported back in time, but the people who knock a band for their influences overlook the fact that those years were great ones for independent music and if you must wear your influences on your sleeve, surely it is better to have some of the best? Cheatahs do what they do very well indeed, and though they frame their sound within the constraints of a particular era, like the equally proficient Ringo Deathstarr, they create their own particular blend which infuses all they do with a satisfying quality if not breathtaking innovation.

As their record company claims, singer Nathan Hewitt's lyrics may well touch upon "the complexities of relationships, nature, the city, memory, dislocation and self-identity", but his unforceful approach means that not a lot of what he is singing is discernible beneath the two guitar attack, though the harmonies blend in perfectly with the soundcsapes Cheatahs construct, at times painstakingly pretty and artfully built, and at others furious and howling – Cheatahs can rock out with the best of them. There's quite a lot of fiddling going on. Hewitt adjusts his microphone stand about eighteen times through the fifty minute set, while guitarist James Wignall has an ongoing debate with the sound engineer before deciding he is not going to offer any more backing vocals three-quarters of the way through, unecessarily making the point of moving his microphone stand off the stage. Both Hewitt and Wignall have boxes full of effect pedals, used in a bewildering array of combinations, though they work in perfect unison and create a fine decoration for the solid construction work of busy bassist Dean Read and drummer Marc Raue, who appears to be enjoying himself immensely.

Seven tracks off the new album get an airing, along with 'Coared' from 2012's Marshall Teller EP of the same name, and 'Fountain Park' and 'Flake' from the same year's debut Wichita offering, Sans. The audience are appreciative and there is plenty of nodding going on and a handful of more enthusiastic boppers. It's not difficult to lose yourself in the lapping waves of sound Cheatahs produce; it will be interesting to see in which direction they will move and whether they will infuse their music with more of their own personalities as they develop. In the meantime, they make for a very decent night out so catch them if you can.

Words Adam, Pics Gary

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