Me: Hey, honey, I have the latest album from Cheer-Accident here. They got their name from a category of greeting cards. Mind if I put it on?
Wife: Be my guest, Mule.
(I fire up the CD player and “Sun Dies” begins playing)
Wife: (laughing) What the hell, Mule?
Me: Jesus, it sounds like Gentle Giant throwing up. Sorry.
Chicago’s Cheer-Accident thrive on absurdity and perversity. Nothing travels in a straight line. Their songs bend, snap, fall over, bounce back. They’re like Thinking Plague’s drunken uncle, spilling beer, cracking wise, and hogging the stereo at family gatherings with way-out records selected just for the occasion. As Cuneiform puts it, “Recommended if you like: Art Bears, The Association, Faust, Magma, Nomeansno, Steve Reich, Shudder to Think, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, This Heat, Time of Orchids. Playing simultaneously.”
Which is true and not true. Yes, they sound like a clustercuss at times, but they’re also capable of great beauty, and they never stop being fun. A trio at its core (all three members write), Cheer-Accident includes an impressive cast of vocalists and brass and wind players on Fear Draws Misfortune. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the melee when everyone gets going. The songs (and despite the chaos, these do feel like songs) sometimes bleed and segue neatly into one another, just in case you weren’t disoriented enough. Although the whole album is terrific, there are some standout tracks. “According to the Spiral” is a languid little gem that glides on an elusive rhythm, while “Blue Cheadle” is a compelling jumble. “Humanizing the Distance” traverses several movements and constantly shifting arrangements to unwind with the entire band playing a lovely extended riff that dissipates to a single guitar. The song heaves a great sigh. Beware of “The Carnal, Garish City,” however—I just have no idea. Are they singing in French? Is that supposed to be duck? You’re on your own with this one.
The band are stingy with the lyrics and other mystery-busting documentation, so I don’t know what it all means, but I’m on board nevertheless. I’ll champion them and take them to my breast as though I were comforting an orphaned porcupine. They’re lovable and cute, but those quills can be a bitch.