Release Date: Aug 5, 2016
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Guitar rock is dead. I’ve seen it. It bums under the boardwalk, all shambling fibulas knocking under a spitting, spinning endocrine skull, a denim corpse that yanks itself off of the crusty concrete past and yowls real loud. If it snaps a Gretsch string, it smiles and sticks a cigarette into its forearm.
When Cheena's self-titled EP was released by Sacred Bones, it was something of a mystery: how did a label so dedicated to dark experimental sounds discover a band so steeped in rock tradition? As it happens, the band includes some of the label's previously signed artists going in a very different direction, most notably Pharmakon's Margaret Chardiet, who trades power electronics for guitar. Similarly, the rest of Cheena, including members of Crazy Spirit, Anasazi, and Hank Wood & the Hammerheads, opt for '70s-inspired punk and glam rock instead of their usual hardcore punk. The band's first full-length continues Cheena's honing process, giving the songs just enough order to hold them together.
It’s been a long time since New York City sounded like Cheena. In a year that’s seen some of the city’s greatest venues and record stores shutting their doors, Cheena’s New York is undoubtedly a figment of the past. On their debut album, Spend the Night With..., the band longs for an instantly recognizable but long-gone locale: home of CBGB’s, leather jackets, cheap rent, the New York fuckin’ Dolls.
The depth in Cheena’s atmosphere is far from evident when you skim through their debut. In fact, they don’t seem to be doing very much on the surface. Their crumbling garage punk is tried and tested, their lazy performance style is intentionally rough and very little more, and even the title of this album, Spend the Night With…, seems to call back to a fairly clichéd default.
NYC punk newcomers Cheena might well be thousands of miles away from the UK, but they possess similarities to the country’s sleazy grunge trademarks. Formed in 2014 with Margaret Cardiet (Pharmakon) and members of Hank Wood & the Hammerheads and Crazy Spirit, the group collectively bring Lou Reed’s thrashy punches, the heavy sounds of the Dolls and hometown glamour of Kiss to their brutally honest debut album ‘Spend the Night With’. Cheena drag themselves off to familiar late nights out, pounding mosh pits and whiskey sessions.
If New York’s underground punk scene is a great incestuous orgy, consider Cheena the wet spot where its commingled creative juices accumulate. Comprising Margaret Chardiet (aka Pharmakon) and members of Crazy Spirit and Hank Wood & the Hammerheads, the band blends a deceptively disparate swath of influences into a murky stew of lo-fi punk. Equally infatuated with punk’s glam and garage rock precursors as with the bluesy cowpunk of The Gun Club, Cheena aims to carve out a unique identity apart from their constituent members’ other projects.
Between them, the five members of Cheena have committed a solid body of non-Cheena work to tape. Little if any of it suggested they might form the kind of band who would title their debut album Spend The Night With..., and fill it with half an hour of half-cut, slobbery, lascivious blooze-glam to match. They seem to be pushing the line that these eleven songs shake with the very essence of New York, their home city; perhaps this is aurally evident to residents.