The Pop Bleeding into the Punk on Debut Album “Riot, Right?” by Athens GA’s Nihilist Cheerleader

Nihilist Cheerleader
Riot, Right?
Perfect Attendance Records

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Oh god we need this right now, and the fact that we kind of always need this doesn’t diminish by a hair that exigency. Urgent, unyielding, pop-sussed and astutely sassed, Nihilist Cheerleader, in sound and fury, in lyric and lunge, represent the fully paid-up, pissed off, wildly articulate (and, not infrequently, disarmingly charming) #FuckYou faction of the #MeToo movement. Besides merely living up to all the fierce banner-waving, culture-skewering assumptions their name is inspiring in you right this second, the four (two female, two male, by the way) go beyond the call of feral duty by packaging the bite and bile in a ready mix of juke-friendly hooks, fits of poignant yearning, and, yes, bursts of unfiltered venom. Crucially, however, one gets the likely wise impression that what nods there are to radio-ready structures on Riot, Right? are zero there for the sake of anyone’s need for the comforting balm of accessibility – they could, one gathers, give a shit about that – but rather the result of the quartet’s absorbed rock instincts. Most impressively, even on those tracks ruled by the brash lurch and churn, said instincts can’t help but seep through.

 

Subsequently, songs like the smash-‘n’-grab-your-attention opener “I’m Fine,” the headlong gasp of “Three Drug Cocktail” (amphetamines surely being one of them), “You’re Ur Uniform” where the phrase ‘precisely shambolic’ came to mind, and the album’s most in-your-face political tirade “Bleach Boy” with its heavy metal fuzz chording and stomp boot rhythm, all strike with the force and familiarity of early, pre-Butch Vig L7, i.e. fem-powered punk ragers that despite themselves either can’t or are unwilling to drown out the melodic insistence at their core. Whether or not this leads Nihilist Cheerleader to their own 21st c. Bricks Are Heavy moment is, however, enough beside the point to be immaterial, as the tracks that merge their aforementioned pop proclivities with the punching, youth-fueled aggro, show them already ahead of that curve.

 

“Who’s Gonna Hear You” might reasonably be heard as the Mo-Dettes on a bit of a teeth-baring binge while “You Love Proximity” wonders, in roughly vague but unrelenting terms, what stitching an acerbic version of Blake Babies to patches of Babes In Toyland carnage might come come out sounding like, but it’s the finale track “& She Takes It,” with its purring dual-channeled guitar and bass groove clawing its way into the chorus, withdrawing then clawing back before descending into a perfect coda of chaos, that seals the deal on the true nature of promise this debut has unleashed, and that’s not even mentioning the keen assurance with which the song stands its title’s first-glance meaning on its head until it’s a feminist manifesto of the pop-punkest kind.

In the end, then, Riot, Right? really only leaves us with a two-stage response, executable in whichever order you choose:

  1. Buy the album.
  2. Thank Nihilist Cheerleader for existing