Release Date: May 1, 2012
Record label: In the Red Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Garage Punk, Indie Rock
Jeffrey Novak possesses one of the greatest and most effortless vocal sneers in contemporary rock & roll, sounding as if he could turn asking for a glass of water into a world-class insult, and on their third full-length album, his band Cheap Time are learning how to sound every bit as snotty as their frontman. Wallpaper Music isn't as formally inventive in its fusion of punk, pop, and glam as 2010's Fantastic Explanations (And Similar Situations), but in terms of sheer swagger and shrugged-off bad attitude, it's some sort of triumph, an album that encompasses several generations of teenage negativity and channels it into a potent, murky groove. On Wallpaper Music, Cheap Time's music sounds elemental and experimental at once; the songs are built out of simple melodic structures and commonplace riffs, but given the sharp report of Novak's guitar, the relentless pulse of Stephen Braren's bass, and the straightforward stomp of Ryan Sweeney's drums, these songs have plenty of room to explore sonic avenues off the main route, and between the fuzzy wah-wah groove of "Straight and Narrow," the semi-acoustic brooding of "Take It If You Want It," the blues-leaning guitar and metronomic piano of "Typically Strange," the descent into loops of noise in "Dream It Up," and the vague but clever Who lift of the grand finale of "Underneath the Fruit Flies," it's clear Cheap Time never met a detour they didn't like.
Jeffrey Novak doesn’t appear to be a fan of limitations. A quick glance at the members he’s chosen to form Cheap Time throughout their three full-lengths and five seven inches shows very little cohesion. Band members change almost on a whim, reflecting the intense pace with which Novak seems interested in keeping when it comes to writing, recording and releasing his brand of jagged garage pop.
For a band whose supporting lineup has changed an astonishing five times in six years, it’s shocking that Cheap Time still manages a cohesive third effort with Wallpaper Music. The latest lineup inductees, Ryan Sweeney and Cole Kinnear, join founding member Jeffery Novak, whose band beginnings once boasted the likes of Be Your Own Pet’s Jemima Pearl and Nathan Vasquez. Even amidst the continued lineup changes, the vicious punk remains as crowd pleasing as ever.
They members of Cheap Time may not look like those of the glitter punk and glam rock bands that they claim to be inspired by, but their third LP, Wallpaper Music, with its mix of punk rock and powerpop, is the sonic child of the New York Dolls and the Stooges. The energy levels provided by the quick guitar riffs vary per song, but Cheap Time manages to provide a heavy dose of pure punk dirtiness. Most of this can be attributed to Jeffrey Novak’s voice and guitar playing, which has remained a constant throughout the band’s history, though there have been lineup changes with other members over the years.