ALBUM REVIEW: cheerbleederz – ‘even in jest’

Drawings of the three members of cheerbleederz dressed as clowns

cheerbleederz’ best quality has probably always been how humble the outfit has stayed. Temptation to brand it a ‘supergroup’ would probably be met with considerable umbrage, no less from the band itself; the ties to Fresh, ME REX, Happy Accidents and Finish Flag are more just a consequence of the crossbred nature of the UK DIY scene as it is. Rather, cheerbleederz has always felt more like an outlet for the poppier impulses of those involved, where the songs mightn’t be as literary or dense as the outfits the band has shot off from, without sheering off too much humanity in the process. They’d make a good gateway band to the scene in that respect, in what’s often felt like a happier medium between quaint pop songwriting and grittier melancholy of their wider indie-rock fare. That’s what even in jest does most successfully, just in how excessively likable cheerbleederz come across and how smoothly that translates into their own little niche of the scene. Even on the kiss-offs of break ur arm and notes app apologies, you get the sense that it’s simply not in the band’s nature to bring forth fire-and-brimstone anger, though that’s not a failing by any stretch. Instead, it’s more in line with a gooey love song like cute as hell, or the flickers of anxiety on nail biters, songs in which artifice is a non-factor and can play to cheerbleederz’ own small-scale presentation. The word ‘twee’ isn’t off the table, but even in jest manages to hit that mindset without a lot of the negative connotations it can sometimes bring. The caffeinated, saccharine sweetness is never overbearing, because it doesn’t feel like an act that cheerbleederz are playing up.

Similarly, the base in territories of indie-rock verging at times on grunge helps get past those hurdles rather swiftly, as isn’t all that uncommon in the DIY scene. It is worth noting, though, how the smaller, individual-level scale translates here too; the fizzing guitars and bass don’t try and mask edges a bit more ragged and ramshackle, where that can be exacerbated by the synth pulse that whirrs across love/hurt and the vocal harmonies held less tightly on lazy bones. Ease it back just a bit further and cheerbleederz wouldn’t be all that removed from the indie / folk-leaning side of bedroom-pop, in their fondness for deliberately smaller, scratchier pickups that still translate into buoyant hooks on cute as hell or pinwheel. Maybe that’s also a limiting factor too; outside of love/hurt built around its aforementioned synth, moments of variety are a bit sparing, outside of the slightest touches of jangle and polish on carbon copy and notes app apologies. Having said that, the album is breezy enough to where that doesn’t weigh heavily, in what’s largely a decision of cheerbleederz getting out of their own way and letting the songs themselves shine through. On those merits, only in jest has a lot to like, as a fuzzy, fun listen that’s a worthwhile culmination of three real scene talents and how far they’ve reached as a unit. The DIY-pop approach is as unflinchingly endearing as ever, a lane that cheerbleederz can mine some real richness from, on the sort of nonsense-free album that, at most turns, provides something supremely easy to like.

For fans of: Fresh, Happy Accidents, Peaness

‘even in jest’ by cheerbleederz is released on 27th July on Alcopop! Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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