Monday, February 20, 2012

Album Review: Cheap Girls - Giant Orange

Album Rating: A-
It seems as if there is nothing all that extraordinary about Ian Graham and he perfectly well knows it.  Even now in fronting the third full-length from Lansing's Cheap Girls, Graham still chooses to wail out his stories and discontentment from the far side of the trio's never-waning sonic wall, knowing that the syllables he shouts will be as lost in the hazy production as he is in his own mind.  He did so all throughout Find Me A Drink Home, steadily distancing himself from the world around him but failing to sever the ties for good.  My Roaring 20's was but a reiteration of the same graceless shortcomings, this time camouflaged behind sunnier track titles and beefier choruses that maintained the self-destructive disposition of their predecessors.  Though it could have easily picked up where album-ending confessional 'One & Four' left off, Giant Orange comes off as the optimistic counterpart to more jaded previous offerings.  And wouldn't you know it, sunny is a damn good color for Cheap Girls.

With some production help from well-versed punk legend Tom Gabel of Against Me!, the Michigan-based trio are able to soar higher than ever before.  Opening track 'Gone All Summer' is testimony to all that a Cheap Girls song can be, with massive fuzzy guitar lines giving the track the vitality it needs to back its (finally) positive outlook.  "I've been gone all summer/and I think it's for the greater good," asserts Graham, demonstrating to himself as much as to anyone else that trying to manage musical endeavors with more promising forms of survival doesn't need to be an entirely miserable venture.  Even some of the record's seemingly more downtrodden tracks carry themselves with broad shoulders and a firmamental gaze; 'If You Can't Swim' even sees Graham considering the notion that it might just all be okay in the end.  This all being said, you know that no Cheap Girls record could be complete without an intensely self-critical track like 'Cored to Empty', the band's one chance to extricate themselves from the drumming's propulsive governance before returning once again to their rock-band sensibilities. 

Giant Orange isn't the passage of a struggling rock star into the warm glow of the limelight; rather, it showcases a group that is willing and able to stick it out on a frustrating scene for at least another year.  'Pacer' perfectly encapsulates this going-down-swinging temperament, with the band's attention to instrumental precision and its five-minute play time cementing it not only as Cheap Girls' longest track to date, but one of their most memorable as well.  Cheap Girls may in fact be the guys to think the right way last, as closing track 'Right Way' asserts, yet it's worth celebrating the fact that they've at least found a path worth treading.

While nobody can say for sure what brought on the more uplifting effort from Cheap Girls, one can speculate that ample time spent touring with friends in Bomb the Music Industry! and aforementioned Against Me! has something to do with it.  Or perhaps it can be attributed to a prolonged absence from the cold and snowy winds that the Great Lakes collectively bring to Lansing.  Either way, we listeners ought to be grateful for a band that's continuing to stay true to themselves and glad that they're sticking around.

Stream Giant Orange over at AOL Music here, and be sure to check them out on their ongoing tour with The Menzingers and The Sidekicks this spring!

Track List:
1. Gone All Summer
2. Ruby
3. Communication
4. Cored To Empty
5. Manhattan On Mute
6. Mercy Go Round
7. If You Can't Swim
8. On/Off Switches
9. Pacer
10. Right Way

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