What does the word Cherub mean to you? Smiling,
angelic, little kid? Fountain water-feature? Or maybe, like
me, you'd put the word to more ironic use? Like that annoying,
problem kid running amok at your place while Mum smiles with
glazed affection and denial. "Ah, little cherub!"
According to official definitions, the use of "Cherubs" as
a plural for baby angels is quite acceptable. I haven't quite
found anywhere saying, "Four-fifths Norwegian, London based
art-rockers fixated with post-punk and new wave circa 1977-1983",
then I've only got Wikipedia.
Uncovered by Heartbeat is Cherubs' debut album,
but it will be familiar to anyone whose musical schooling took
in a regular diet of Magazine,
Wire, Television, Gang
of Four, or The Fire Engines over two decades ago. From
the moment Telepathy launches its mildly feverish agit-pop, we know
we've got the day off to pretend we're sick, stay at home, and lubricate our
living rooms. (Select appropriate method. Your business, not mine.)
There's a willful amateurism within much of Uncovered By Heartbeat.
On Kiss All Morning, vocalist Staale Bruland plays the dispassionate
role so skillfully it's as though he recorded those parts on the bus, or on
the way to the local store to pick up cigarettes. Elsewhere he's to be found
inflected with the spasmodic jerks and ticks of somebody at the border control
between sanity and lunacy. (Take a good long look at his papers, fellas.) Yet
it's nothing serious and I'm sure we'll all attest to the fact that mild doses
of idiocy can be rather amusing in the right setting. The rest of Cherubs provide
exactly that. Oblique, prickly guitars cajole the listener, backed by a very
satisfying bass and drum akin to Joy
Division (check You Stay I Leave)
except with far more warmth in the production.
Cherubs have no real demons though. These are mere Bedsitter fantasists, equally likely to explore an imaginary girlfriend/rejection paranoia as they are to make some toast and a cup of tea. Approach playfully, and you will be rewarded with some of the best danceable Indie in some while. Just mind the cups and plates.
Yet just when the party is in full swing they pull out the impressions. This
Awful Morning is laced with Strokes
and Botox bop is a White
Stripes cadet. Hey Bunny is their take on Franz Ferdinand, while
the superb Eyes Only finds time to ape Interpol and
Adam Ant. They're wonderfully accurate parodies. My only misgiving being….they're
wonderfully accurate parodies. Thank heaven then for the ghost-train riff
that is Faces And Masks. Laced with eerie melody, it hauls Cherubs
back from the brink of covers band, re-establishing the earlier feel of a
Uncovered by Heartbeat is solid, varied, catchy, and downright
fun. Surely they're already the favourite band of someone somewhere, but it's
tough to tell where Cherubs will go from here. Modest, self-effacing, yet confident,
Cherubs seem at ease with their awkwardness even playing up to it. I hope they
pursue this aspect but will they? Will they flap their little wings, rampage
though our homes with chocolate fingers or piss into a pond?
I'm voting for the chocolate fingers.