Cheena - Spend the Night With... - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Cheena - Spend the Night With...

by Amy Putman Rating:4 Release Date:2016-08-05

Songs never exist in a vacuum.  They are inseparable from the way you hear them; where you are; who you're with; what mood you're in. 

A really great song can override many of these, spinning you into a different direction by sheer force of stirring your soul, but there will still be times when your mood is too strong to be swayed, and even truly great music is a pale backdrop.  Music is communication, and sometimes you are not in the mood to listen properly.  Music is life, and sometimes you want to hide from everything.  Music is energy, and people, and magic, and sometimes you are full up and closed.

On the other hand, sometimes you are desperate for connection.  Then, the music eases loneliness, nourishes emptiness, and fulfils needs you cannot express.  At those times, even a mediocre song you know can feel like a best friend; an ally against the strange and the silence.

Equally, good times can blend with any song, making your belly rise in nostalgic joy and laughter fill your throat every time you hear it.  Sing-alongs in cars with friends as you ride across a storm can imbue the average with the epic, so that it becomes an emblem; an anthem; a meme you cherish for life.  Joyful dancing can allow an open-mindedness that overcomes taste.  The faces of those you love can rosily tint even terrible music.  Excitement, adventure, drugs, drunkenness; they can all raise a song's status.  It's why retro cheese clubs exist.  It's why a lot of bad dance music is perpetuated.  Joy is a mind altering drug; your happiness skews your perception.

Remember Silly Putty?  I sure do.  Aside from being my charming nickname for some years - which I loathed, by the way, never failing to see the bitter viciousness behind the seemingly mild label -  I remember how exciting it seemed.  The adverts targeted my age group perfectly; smiling faces gleefully expressing that this would make you.  You'd have friends; adventure; fun; play; anything you wanted, and in neon colours, too.  It was perfectly designed to make money; cheap to produce and appealing to everything kid's like.  Bright colours; a kinder-egg style container; tactility; novelty; mildly disgusting and rebellious.

I got some for my birthday.  It was luminous orange and I spent the first two hours poking it, throwing it, stretching it, sticking it, making fart sounds with it.... And then I dropped it on the carpet and it was ruined forever.  The disappointment I felt was not pretty.  I had thought it had so much potential.  My childish faith believed every life-changing implication the adverts had made.  Sure, it was mildly diverting, but as I sat there picking off the fluff, I noticed that I still had no friends, and I was still the same confused, lonely, emotional child.  I had wanted to progress; to grow up; to lose the puppy fat and gain some playmates.  Instead, I had a ball of greasy, neon dough and a plastic egg.

That particular tone of emotion was reignited when I first heard, on the same afternoon, The Golden Age of Grotesque by Marilyn Manson, and The Eminem Show (by Eminem, obv).  I had been such a fan of them both in my teens, and though I had wandered away a little, I still associated their sound with that glorious feeling of hopeful possibility one gets at the first reaches of freedom.  I had felt that dark luscious sensation that all one's desires were in reach; I would have lust, love, friends, success; I'd finally, maybe, lose my puppy fat.

These were not the artists I remembered, though; these were not the albums as advertised.  These were not the songs I needed or wanted.  These were the churned out, mass marketed, lacklustre, flash-in-the-pan versions of what had been promised.  These were the listen-once, then drop on a grubby carpet albums.

I walked home, feeling as though someone had stabbed me with an apple corer.  I put on Songs of Leonard Cohen, lay down with my feet out of the window in the breeze, and allowed the music to heal me.

Later that day, huddled around a polystyrene bonfire on a back step with an interesting man, I heard Rush for the first time.  Now, Rush are an all time great band, so I'm not saying it was just the setting, but it certainly didn't hurt.  I was open, laughing, keen to learn.  They are still one of my favourites.

I guess this potted history is my way of saying that I can't listen to Cheena in a vacuum.  I can't be objective or clinical.  If anyone claims to be, they are lying, straight up.

In a round about way, I have been trying to say that I gave Cheena the best possible atmosphere for a first listen.  I was comfortable, happy, with someone I love, in a room of joy, on a mini-adventure.  The stage was set for them to play the part of a future connection; the world was primed for them to be accepted as part of us; into our memories, our joys, mentioned often and listened to whenever one was missed by the other.  Unfortunately, they slid off, falling softly to the floor with barely a feather touch.

This album was disappointing to me.  Not anywhere near Silly Putty disappointment, which is why I told that story - I want to be precise about the levels of disappointment in play.  Cheena were more like 'oh they gave me the wrong meal, never mind, I'm too British to make a fuss I'll eat it anyway' disappointing, not earth-crushing, view-destroying, hopeless disappointment.

Part of the problem is that, as with Wyatt Blair and Omar Rodriguez, the album started really well, then dissipated into mediocrity.  I think this might be a problem with the current production trends, to be honest.  It's a PR mindset; wow them initially, and the feeling will cover the rest.  That only works for the kind of people who never change their mind once it's made.  Otherwise, I'd prefer a slow ramp up; a crescendo to a glorious finale.  A strong finish lingers with you, making the previous songs better in retrospect, making you pay more positive attention the second time around.

Cheena are better than the other two, but only by a cat's whisker, or a dog's whisker, or a seal's whisker.  Maybe even a man's whisker.

At the same time, there was ample potential here.  I am not trying to dissuade anyone from giving them a go.  I feel quite strongly that they are a band to watch closely for the next few years.  This was the kind of album that makes me think their next one will be fantastic.

Unfortunately, this music ended up being ignored; it was a light tint on the curtains at the back of the stage, barely perceptible but still a part of the scene.  It was comfortable and undemanding, but it did not set us ablaze, and it did not become a part of us.  It was a soft cushion; a smell of soap; pleasant enough, but not a focus; not an experience; not a true pleasure.

Maybe that's ok though; we all need music to work to.  Music that allows us to process the emotions we have.  As long as it's not Silly Putty sad, gentle anticlimax can be relaxing.  And, like I said, next time I don't think Cheena will disappoint.

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