Album Review: Cheap Girls – “Famous Graves”

Cheap Girls have been called ‘your favorite band’s favorite band’. Considering that the band has worked, toured or is friends with (or all of the above) the likes of Against Me!, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Bomb the Music Industry!, Rick Johnson, Mikey Erg, Two Cow Garage, and The Hold Steady (to name a few), there’s a pretty good chance that just might be true. And with the release of their fourth album, Famous Graves, the Lansing, MI trio might very well become your favorite band, too.

To call Famous Graves a ‘return to form’ album would be kind of disingenuous because Cheap Girls never actually strayed too far from their roots. At the same time there’s no other way to really describe it other than as a return to form. Their previous album, 2012’s Giant Orange was a pretty big step up for the band: the guitars were crunchy and the drums boomed thanks to producer Laura Jane Grace, the songwriting was generally happier, and vocalist Ian Graham’s delivery soared miles over everything else the band had released at that point. Without coming off as a step backwards for the band, Famous Graves strips away that overall feeling of grandness, trading it in for a heavy focus on the trio’s songwriting and nothing more. In that respect, Famous Graves is a return to form.

Cheap Girls have always had a knack for melody in the past, but they really knock it out of the park here. Between the ‘whoa’s of “Man in Question” to the speedy accusations in “Amazing Grace” and the head-bobbing “Short Cut Days” to the call-and-response chorus of “Thought Senseless”, the band provides some of their strongest and catchiest material to date. Ian’s vocals don’t quite match the same range he showed on Giant Orange, but his croon still finds the perfect combination of apathy and energy to inject into his songs.

Famous Graves probably won’t change the opinions of anyone who has already made up their mind on Cheap Girls, but it does make for a great starting point for newcomers. Combining the chord progressions of Find Me a Drink Home, the fuzziness of My Roaring 20’s, and the self-confidence of Giant Orange, it’s got all the right elements present, effectively making it the quintessential Cheap Girls record.

4.5 / 5

RIYL: Smoking Popes, Sundials, Luther

Random Notes:

-Track five on here, “Pure Love”, first appeared on the band’s split with Lemuria in 2011, and the band’s been playing it as a part of their live set for just as long. It would’ve been nice to have gotten a brand new song instead of a new recording of an old song, but at the same time it’s also nice to see this gem of a B-side finally get properly recognized as an A-side.

-There’s a digital bonus track called “7-8 Years”. I highly recommend that you seek it out.

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