Once upon a time, the combination of ecstatic, fx-slathered guitars, murmurous honeyed vocals and ambient drone was thrillingly new; now, it’s reassuringly familiar. From Tokyo to Toronto, “nu-gaze” is everywhere, in myriad shades from roaring to ruminative but with My Bloody Valentine inevitably its template. Small wonder that right now bliss-pop veterans Slowdive seem to be preparing for a comeback. This particular nostalgia wave is still cresting.
The challenge, then, is how to ride it convincingly, without simply replicating Kevin Shields’s guitar memes or Alan Moulder’s production techniques. While the debut album from London-based quartet Cheatahs can’t avoid comparisons to Loveless, it’s the (mainly) US punk, hardcore and slacker-rock markers on its road to a similarly fulsome oblivion that indicate its difference. The woozy, fathoms-deep swirl of “Mission Creep” and “Fall” may be deeply indebted to MBV, but it’s Hüsker Dü’s New Day Rising, Dinosaur Jr’s You’re Living All Over Me, and Swervedriver’s Raise that supply this record’s thrust, a fact heavily underscored by the routine physicality and volume of Cheatahs’ live shows.
Given its touchstones and its faithful adherence to genre rules (use of vintage amps, reverb and layering, indistinct vocals kept low in the mix), few prizes for pushing the guitar-rock envelope are likely here, but in its noisy balancing of the slo-mo tidal pull and the full throttle of an open highway, Cheatahs proves pretty damned irresistible.