They say that smells are the most potent memory triggers, but it seems that sound sometimes works better. There’s nothing like listening to Top 40 songs from your younger years to bring the angst flooding back, for instance.
You might expect Boston rock outfit Cheerleadr’s 1999 release “Rock Album” to take you back a couple of years. The trouble is, it’s more likely to take you back 10 years.
The tracks on “Rock Album” are the kind of straight-ahead guitar rock that swamped the airwaves in the early ’90s when grunge dominated.
On “Get Faith” the rhythm guitar and drum tracks are so heavily Nirvana-influenced that it’s possible to hum a Nirvana tune over the riff before the vocals kick in. Other songs sound distinctly like the Foo Fighters, mid-career REM, “Bossanova”-era Pixies and assorted other stars of the last decade. While (most of) these were great bands and (most of) their music is still a good listen, Cheerleadr’s had 10 years to find a new direction in rock after grunge and they seem satisfied not to make any progress. The group prides itself on its lack of samples and other hip hop trappings that are prevalent in modern rock, which makes it unique among its contemporaries, but makes it fairly run-of-the-mill.
The group is currently in Chicago recording a new album with Steve Albini, a producer whose work with the Pixies, Nirvana and Bush makes him largely responsible for the direction of indie rock after the ’80s. Of course Nirvana was derivative of the Pixies and Bush was derivative of Nirvana, due probably in part to Albini’s influence.
Ultimately, though, each of those bands managed to carve a new niche for itself under the umbrella of a similar style. Cheerleadr has had two years since “Rock Album” to formulate its own sound and it may be that the new album will better define the Cheerleadr’s identity. The band seems to have the energy, attitude and radio-friendliness that could go somewhere once there’s a direction to go in.
Cheerleadr will be taking a break from recording to play in Portland this Friday at the Shady Lady on Wharf Street.