Written by: Dave Cantrell
It may seem to be one of rock’n’roll’s stalest socio-political clichés but it’s also, paradoxically, among its most cherished: Some bands come along just when we need them.
It’s always to do with shaking things up, of course, and lord and goddess knows our culture could arguably use more shaking up now than it has since Elvis’ pelvis had nearly every Eisenhower-gray gatekeeper trembling in their wingtips. While at times it’s a case of some force coming along to save the art form from itself as much as rending the social fabric – the Beatles and Nirvana being a couple of obvious examples – it would seem we owe greater debts to those more incendiary forces – Dylan, the Pistols and punk-in-general, the Riot Grrrl movement – that manage to do both simultaneously. Enter Nihilist Cheerleader. Now, as most everyone has no doubt noticed by now, the response to this current, unprecedented political nightmare we’re all going through in this country has been surprisingly, even crushingly, muted. Where one might have reasonably expected a full-throated, near unanimous groundswell there has instead been a handful of voices yelling into an otherwise prevailing wind of indifference. While it’s understandable to some degree – the breadth of this farce is enough to make one, at least initially, paralyzed and speechless – enough’s e-fucking-nough already, yeah? If ever there’s been an appropriate time for a collective roar of righteous indignation surely this is it. It’s not gonna get any better (which is to say worse) than this, surely, unless of course we keep sailing along thinking that, like all nightmares, we’ll wake up one day and it’ll all be over. Might be true, probably won’t be. The time for shouting is upon us, and Athens-based Nihilist Cheerleader know it and aren’t gonna be shy about it.
Lurching with a sure grace through a 10-strong tracklist that swings from pure-out aggro (opener “I’m Fine,” the frantic blaster “Three Drug Cocktail”) to pretty, barbed-wire pop (check “Drenched In,” effortlessly gorgeous inside its melodic spikiness) and the many-nuanced dynamics between, Riot, Right?, released this Friday, March 30th, on Perfect Attendance Records is, yes, an easy contender for 2018’s debut-of-the-year, but in a far more salient sense is exactly the artful yowl of protest that’s been so crucially absent from our listening lives. That it does so while rather frequently dissecting/skewering/shining a very-bright-light-indeed on intra-personal relationships is, of course, exactly the place that genius commentary of this sort most often exists. Consisting, perfectly enough, of two women (Flynne Collins guitar/singing, Leora Hinkle bass) and two men (Charley Gumby drums, Dylan Loftin guitar), NC present a preternaturally timely debut, balancing without seeming to have overthought it in the least the personal with the political, the brash with the hook-laden catchy, the fire and the fun. But, as usual, don’t take our word for it. Listen up for yourselves, and while doing so have a leisurely peruse through the band’s track-by-track rundown. There’s your day then, set. Get disturbed and dance. [pre-order Riot, Right? on cassette, CD, and digital here]
- I’m “Fine”
This one is in a lot of ways a release of bottled up feelings. Sort of like when someone asks you if you’re ok and you respond “I’m fine” but you’re really not. Eventually it all comes out and ya gotta take matters into your own hands and seek solutions instead of continuing to deny issues. It’s a thick and sludgy song that sticks to Nihilist Cheerleader’s punk roots.
2. Who’s Gonna Hear You?
“Who’s gonna Hear You” is without a doubt our danciest track on the album– we even have a music video that demonstrates our commitment to dance! Our favorite shows to go to in Athens have audiences that move around and that’s the feel we tried to create within this song. Lyric-wise the track reflects on our experiences as musicians/students/food service-industry workers in Athens– how sometimes it can feel like you’re going nowhere and doing nothing when the next day you realize how incredible your friends and community and places you go are.
3. Drenched In
This track deviates from our expected sound in a lot of ways, because even though we want the rush of adrenaline that comes out of our “harsher” songs, sometimes we are just really tired and miss how it felt to be children. 2017-2018 has been really fucking heavy. Right?
4. Three Drug Cocktail
A slang term used for euthanasia, usually mistaken as some kind of party song addresses our opposition to the death penalty. It’s one our fastest paced songs on the album, and is probably one of the most simplistic. Coming through Dylan’s 1975 Marshall Lead Combo is some of the most overdriven feedback played as if another instrument itself. This song drifts into noise rock in certain points and is very chaotic.
5. Shark Fin Soup
One of the first songs written when Charlie joined the band. Ostensibly about overfishing and animal cruelty, the song is also about how victims are often presented as monsters by those who
seek to uphold an exploitative status quo. We prefer to present sharks as friends, not food. Featuring a very melodic, dB’s inspired solo and one of the most intense vocal performances on the album, it packs a punch.
6. You’re Ur Uniform
As of guitarist Dylan always says, “it’s not about the guy with the coolest shirt.” This track is about the commodification of identity. More specifically, the identities most everyone projects online, Fine, post a picture showing off how C U T T I N G – E D G E or whatever u r but do you actually talk to people you interact with in real life like that? What do you’re instagram posts look like in action? Fine, wear all black and look like a “true” emo punk ass but realize you’re not all that different from the frat boys that walk down milledge ave. in their polos and khaki shorts. Sometimes fashion is just a game we play, ACTION over FASHION. (Not to say us Cheerleaders are above it because it’s consuming for everyone (; )
7. Miss You Forever
It’s about missing how I felt playing outside of my childhood home in the summertime before my mom and dad got divorced. It’s about missing somebody that you used to hangout with everyday but don’t even know anymore. It’s about missing something that’s not even gone yet.
If you feeling getting wine drunk in your bathtub and lamenting the never ending cycle of loss within your lifetime, this is the song for you.
8. Bleach Boy
One of the first songs ever written by the band, Bleach Boy is foundational to the Nihilist Cheerleader sound and ethos. Calling out politicians who try to bleach America. This is the second released recording of the song, because we felt it had developed so much after touring the southeastern U.S. during the first year under Trump, a journey which taught us that there is no shortage of new bleach boys to overcome in 2018 and beyond.
9. You Love Proximity
This is the only track on the record that we have never performed live, the newest of the new. Lyrically, it reflects on interpersonal and romantic relationships. How sometimes it just feels like people/ loverz really only care for you because you’re close, there, accessible. Up close you can get caught up in the contrast, the crests and troughs, but what you reach for is limited by what you can see. In other words, DON’T just use Tinder, put yourself out there and try Grindr, eHarmony, FarmersMeet, and even Christian Mingle.
10. & She Takes It
We love the type of people that know when to take a break and we love the type of people that know when they need to take a stand. If you don’t stop until you drop, you are going to drop. The sentiment of “& She Takes It” is knowing yourself and not feeling sorry about it. Because on monday you could feel so depressed that all you can do is stay in bed and then tuesday or wednesday you could wake up ready to take on the entire the world… and it’s strange. “& She Takes It” is a song that we hope makes listeners feel like even the saddest moments we experience are O.K., natural, relatable, and just as important as those that make us feel like everything all at once.