Dan Vapid and the Cheats - Escape Velocity (Cover Artwork)

Dan Vapid and the Cheats

Escape Velocity (2021)

eccentric pop records

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have most likely heard a song of which Dan Vapid has either written or performed. He is mostly known from his early days in Screeching Weasel. He became a Midwest hero overnight through the legendary Sludgeworth who I believe could have achieved potential commercial success. His impressive resume extends to the Riverdales, Mopes, the Queers, the Methadones, Noise By Numbers and beyond. Dan currently fronts Dan Vapid and the Cheats, of course, who have graced us with their fourth album titled Escape Velocity. If you have been following Dan's career, you know that he is constantly evolving both musically and lyrically. This album is certainly no exception. Various lyrical themes are present throughout the album which will make the title more clear.

The opening riff of "Come Find Me" effectively sets the pace and tone for this album. The lead goes right into that familiar voice we have all come to know and love for decades. This steady mid-paced anthem showcases the Cheats effective use of vocal harmonies. "Burning Questions" is heavy power pop through and through. This is the track which stuck in my head most after repeated listening. This is a very vocal heavy track. This is a song about getting out of town as you try to take control of your life. The band slows down the pace and introduces acoustic guitars on "Middle America" which follows. This song follows the escape theme of finding yourself somewhere unfamiliar. "Cyber World" tackles the pros and cons of the internet. We have all had these same thoughts and emotions regarding our excessive use of social media. This track has a cool 80s feel which is complete with some background synth. The Cheats channel 90s alt-rock on "The Talk" which is a song about discussing the feasibility of continuing your relationship with your partner. This track boasts a solid intro which leads into a bombastic combination of full band instrumentation. "Guilt and Relief" continues the tale of the struggle of moving on past a particular situation. A very catchy guitar lead is present in the track's bridge. "Runaway Jane" was the album's lead off single. The lyrics of this track are extremely visual and take you right inside the mind of the subject. Lyrics such as "starting the ignition" puts images in your head of what this woman is going through. The theme of technology comes back on "Robots" which follows. The track kicks off with a solid drumbeat that sets the tone for the rest of the song. This relatable song tells the tale of jobs being replaced with modern technology. Automation has been a threat to the workforce for most industries. "Teenage Wallflower" is an alt rocker about a shy girl trying to figure it all out. We have all been there at some point. "Tears Are Falling" is a straight up pop punk track. This number features solid vocal harmonization and palm muted riffs. Dan really showcases his vocal range and abilities on "Bitter and Sour" which follows. This uptempo track tells the story again of getting out of a bad relationship and trying to find happiness. The acoustic guitars come back on "Maybe Tomorrow" which is another tale of longing for better days. The most ambitious and unique track on the album is its closer. "Midnight Blue" takes the band on an alt country ride. The chorus boasts some guitar twang which is new territory for the Cheats. The passion in the delivery of this track suggests that songwriting such as this has been in the making for quite some time.

Dan Vapid and the Cheats have delivered again on the follow up to the stellar "Three" album from 2019. It seems the band has overcome all the struggles and set backs presented by the pandemic. Anyone following the Cheats should acknowledge and appreciate the constant progression. It is easy to simply compare a Cheats album to Dan's career. With this album, it is safe to say that those who previously compared should now be able to view the Cheats as a band that is a force to be reckoned with. The combination of visual and emotional lyrics with a wide array of instrumentation makes this one of the year's most enjoyable albums.