You Blew It! – “You Blue It”

Grade: A-

Key Track: “Surf Wax America”

The never-ending and ultimately inane debate about Weezer’s place in 90’s emo has been revived again, with Weezer’s influence on hybrid emo/pop-punk seen heavily in the past few years. So it only makes sense for a band like You Blew It! to do a series of Weezer covers. The band, right on the heels of their excellent sophomore album “Keep Doing What You’re Doing,” embody Weezer’s amped-up style of lovable-but-lonely fuzz-rock. The five songs they cover, all from Weezer’s legendary debut, are less covers and more progressions, showing how much Weezer really has influenced today’s emo.

The purpose of this EP wasn’t notoriety, the band stayed away from the Blue Album’s most recognizable songs – “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So,” and “Undone” – in favor for some deeper cuts. “My Name is Jonas” and “Surf Wax America” are still recognized songs, but less so, and “In the Garage,” “Only In Dreams” and B-side “Susanne” are still somehow deep cuts. You Blew It! keep the songs mostly intact, preserving their integrity instead of flashing them up in any way.
“In the Garage” kicks the EP off, and it actually lacks the energy that the original boasts, as the band takes a more lackluster approach – either a reflection of emo’s slow draining of energy, or just a build up into the more accurate cover of “My Name is Jonas.” They keep the song almost as it is originally, as they probably should, adding only some reverb at the end.

“Only In Dreams” gets drastically shortened and moved to the midpoint, although it still serves as the longest song (as did the original version). “Surf Wax America” is probably the EP’s best song, with the band changing up the opening riff into a more emo-friendly rhythm before launching into a cover with just as much energy and guitar as the original. “Susanne,” meanwhile, is presented as a low-key acoustic track with a more lo-fi sound.

You Blew It!’s adherence to Weezer’s original, largely simple songs is reflective of a band honoring their influences instead of trying to overcome them. Weezer’s Blue Album has stood against time – we’re all still listening to it like it’s our first time. The Blue Album, whether Weezer was trying to or not, laid a template for pop-punk today, and You Blew It! is just the band to watch their throne. “You Blue It” is more about reflecting the progress of emo than it is about either band, showing how it’s evolved in form, and how it hasn’t really actually evolved at all. These are five reliable homages, as one band in their prime honors another from theirs.

-By Andrew McNally

Cheap Girls – “Famous Graves”

(Photo Credit: punknews)

Grade: B-

Key Tracks: “Slow Nod” “Knock Me Down”

As with any Cheap Girls’ record, the main fault of “Famous Graves” is also it’s biggest strength. The band has never, ever left it’s comfort zone, and have left their music in this frustrating void where the listener knows what to expect and is delighted with another similar record, until it inevitably becomes tedious by the halfway point. “Famous Graves” is no different. It starts strong, but it has a middle that sags from too many similar sounding songs.

Part of Cheap Girls’ original act was not to do anything revolutionary, merely to add their own spin onto fuzzy indie/pop-punk (think a more emotional version of Weezer’s Blue album). By sticking so closely to the formula, it reinforces their aim to make consistent and appealing music. But that works a little too well in their favor. “Slow Nod” opens the album, a typically high-volume, medium-speed song with plenty of fuzz and tough to interpret vocals. It’s the band’s staple sound, and songs like “Slow Nod” prove they can still do it well, and with plenty of energy.

The second track, “Short Cut Days,” has a catchy vocal rhythm and excels on a sound that’s intentionally condensed in the studio, with a garage feel – but also sounds like it could tear the walls down live. Cheap Girls, at their best, manage to make both sounds simultaneously. The album’s third song and lead single, “Knock Me Down,” is a more personal song about overwhelming pain felt after surgery, and combines strong vocals, strong lyrics and energetic music, the album’s best package.

After that, though, there’s a long string of songs that do nothing to differentiate themselves from each other. While they’re inherently enjoyable, they all follow the same formula. They’re almost all in the three-to-four minute range and they feel like time that’s being killed off until the album’s strong finale. Having weak and formulaic tracks is almost unavoidable, but five of the eleven songs feel like underdeveloped cuts they’re burning off. A bulk of the album, roughly half of it, falls victim to serious repetition.

The album does have a strong finale, though. “Thought Senseless” stretches (barely) over four minutes, and is a little more developed than a typical Cheap Girls song. “Turns” is a pseudo-ballad, one that has many of the characteristics of one, except that it isn’t a soft song, which makes for an interesting listen. And bonus track “7-8 Years” is more vocally forceful than any of the album’s other songs. The mix of acoustic and electric allow the vocals to come through more clearly, and it ends up adding an element to it.

At their core, Cheap Girls are an enjoyable band. They’re both incredibly simple and subtly complex. They’ve always blended fuzz and pop, in a 90’s throwback. Their sound translates well live, and their albums can accompany any real mood or season. “Famous Graves” just sounds too repetitive, and it could easily be shuffled in and lost amongst their past albums. Cheap Girls aren’t going to win any new fans over with this album, they’re just going to have a few more great songs for fans to eat up, and some more to pass on by.

-If you like this, try: Lemuria’s semi-classic 2008 album, “Get Better.” They have a constant sound much like Cheap Girls (and the two have recorded together).

-By Andrew McNally