Cheap Girls - Find Me a Drink Home (Cover Artwork)

Cheap Girls

Find Me a Drink Home (2008)

Bermuda Mohawk

It's easy to look back at the `90s alt-rock landscape and only recall the disappointing and cringe-inducing bands. You know -- the kind of stuff that led to nü-metal or made you wish flannel and brooding frontmen had died with Nirvana. But there were other great acts with songs that combined just the right amounts of rock, pop, and often quirk, to conceive a lasting product. Bands like the Lemonheads, Nada Surf, Fountains of Wayne and Superdrag mixed power-pop with the fuzzy aesthetics of the `90s to create smart and catchy songs. It is these bands that Cheap Girls seem to be paying homage to on their debut Find Me a Drink Home, and despite their reference points being somewhat obvious, the record is an extremely fresh listen.

So by now you should have some idea of what Cheap Girls sound like -- that is, a guitar, bass and drum trio that mix three-chord pop songs with some bar rock riffs and solos for a sound that recalls the finer power-pop bands of the last decade. One factor I've failed to mention so far, however, is bassist/vocalist Ian Graham's voice. Graham's pleading, albeit reserved, vocals recall Josh Caterer of the Smoking Popes in their pleasant crooning approach. It's this soothing delivery, coupled with often-excellent melodies that make Cheap Girls a recognizable face in the power-pop crowd.

The blues licks, powerhouse chorus and simple verses of "Kind of on Purpose" start the album on a charming, relaxed note, but it's that track's followup that will make you love this band. Starting with simple palm-muting and a melody I guarantee you won't easily shake, "No One to Blame" sounds like a song Evan Dando sold to help pay for his drug habit 15 years ago. From the bass lead in the breakdown to the deliciously alt-rock solo and a hummable chorus, this song has it all and luckily, Cheap Girls tap into these elements elsewhere on the album. "Stop Now" has a wide-eyed bounce to its verse and a simple refrain ("I keep getting all your letters / And they look good in print") that seems to demand that you sing-along, while "A Lesser Rate" seems to take a bit of a darker approach to the power-pop formula.

What's interesting is that despite subject matter that often tends towards drinking, drugs and heartbreak, the mood on Find Me a Drink Home is overwhelmingly optimistic. Blame it on Graham's voice or the band's perpetually upbeat tempos, but this is an album meant for foot-tappers and summer drives.

While I'd like to let Cheap Girls off the hook on the strength of songs like "No One to Blame" and "Stop Now" alone, it needs to be mentioned that there are some dull patches on the second half of the album where things become a bit too familiar and the melodies don't seem as smartly crafted. Luckily the pure pop of the acoustic "Her & Cigarettes" acts a pleasant and well-needed interjection, even if the momentum never fully picks back up.