Chicago noise-meisters Cheer-Accident have been at it in one form or another since 1981. Thirty years is a long time to be toiling away at anything, let alone in the outer world of avant-garde rock. But the group have built up quite a portfolio over this time. Cheer-Accident’s latest release, titled No Ifs, Ands Or Dogs is their 17th release, and second for the Cuneiform label.
Cheer-Accident specialize in what might be conveniently called “unclassifiable” music. It is either that, or dig out every hyphenated adjective used by critics over the course of the past 40 years. No Ifs, Ands Or Dogs contains elements of a ridiculous number of styles, all blended together into a mélange that somehow holds together.
There is definitely a prog influence at work here, it is noticeable from the first track “Drag You Down.” Not so much in a typical Yes/King Crimson manner however, more like what Todd Rundgren was doing with Utopia in the mid-seventies. In fact, his terribly underrated double-album Todd is what I keep finding myself drawn back to throughout No Ifs, Ands Or Dogs.
Rundgren may be an obvious comparison, given that he has dabbled in virtually every style of music known to man. But Cheer-Accident clearly have many, many more colors with which to paint with. “Trial Of Error” playfully uses cheesy early eighties syn-drums and ancient keyboards to get its point across.
Venturing deeper into the album, it seems that Frank Zappa has had a deep impact on the compsers. Tracks such as “This Is The New That,” “Life In Pollyanna,” and “Salad Dies” all reflect the type of difficult tempos, wild changes, and strange asides that were hallmarks of much of his best work.
At one point “Barely Breathing” provides an interesting reprieve from the frenzied fun, reminding me of the role played by “The Carpet Crawlers” from Genesis’ classic The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Pure pop harmonies are also well-utilized. For these, Cheer-Accident have tapped masters such as Bacharach-David and Brian Wilson for inspiration.
While it is fun to listen to a record like this and recognize certain musical cues, there also seems to be a story being told. Various motifs recur, as do lyrical themes. I must confess however, that minus a lyric sheet, and any obvious groupings of songs in suite format, the overall concept of No Ifs, Ands Or Dogs eludes me for the time being.
That by the way, is a major characteristic of truly great prog records. The more difficult it is to figure out, the better. For example, has anyone ever deciphered Peter Gabriel’s story of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway? The answer is no, but it remains Genesis’ finest moment.
In much the same way, No Ifs, Ands Or Dogs may be Cheer-Accident’s masterwork. Their reputation over the past 30 years has included references to extreme noise and the avant-garde, but I would have to say that this latest release is not that way at all. It is experimental, but not in a way that should put off new listeners. In fact, I find this to be one of the most interesting records I have heard in a long time. For those whose tastes run a bit more adventurous than the usual fare, Cheer-Accident are recommended.