I’m going to try and define a new genre with a little help from The Cheap Dates. It’s called “cringe punk.”
Cringe punk makes you feel uncomfortable and even ashamed of what you’re hearing.
The four-piece Chicago punk band successfully translates the sound you might imagine coming from a suburban garage after a group of buds decide it would be cool to start a band. Their official debut release Piss Away Another God Damn Year lasts just over 15 minutes, but it would be impressive if you last that long. The release’s lyrical content largely deals with generic “rock ‘n’ roll” ideals of getting wasted, harnessing unexplained anger, and not giving a shit what anyone else thinks about you taking it all out on the world. Backing that up, the song-writing is reminiscent of an Offspring cover band looking to write some originals for the first time. It’s an audible misunderstanding of genre definition and reflects every insecurity punk musicians have when they’re asked to describe the sound of their band’s sound.
This realization first comes after a glance at the song titles. “DUI or DIE” really jumps out at you, whether it’s the capitalized text or the shudder you feel at the misunderstood celebratory sentiment behind it. Now, this isn’t a PC trash talk on getting drunk. More so a confusion on the excessive – borderline obsessive – focus this album’s lyrics have on it. The album even turns to loose commercialization on the second track, titled “Hamm’s Patrol,” which repeatedly features a powerhouse of a line: “Drink up, drink up, drink up, fuck you.”
Midway through the release, though, there is a brief glimmer of hope. “I’m Staying Here” has a great melody and the track manages to stray away from the corny attitude paraded around on the rest of the tape. You almost forget the track is apart of the whole until the frontman reverts back to his high-pitched, cup-the-balls vocal attitude at the 45 second mark. As a whole, it’s a refreshing break at the halfway point of the release – and a well-deserved one if you’ve made it to this point. If you can get anything out of this album, it will be this track. It’s damn good and it’s only crime is the misfortune of being associated with its other six counterparts.
Then comes “Stupid Talk.” The sixth track aims for some sort of an anti-talking head commentary but fails to be either direct enough or metaphoric enough, landing it in the field of generic rather than creative. After two minutes of back-and-forth between the verse and chorus, the band breaks down into a build up that unnecessarily extends the chorus longer than it needs to be repeated while the guitarist fails to accurately play the notes – not in a punk, don’t-give-a-shit way either. The lack of care in tracking the album quickly raises red flags on the band’s maturity, but by this point on the record those flags have been waving for a while.
This album’s an easy “skip it,” but there’s things to learn here from The Cheap Dates. A little more patience during the recording process could have easily fixed plenty of musical mistakes throughout the album, such as the drums getting off tempo (“She’s In Love With a Rock N Roll Girl”) and forcibly smashing lyrics together to fit the first melody to come to mind (“Daily Commute”). And there is promise to be built on if the right amount of patience is given to the band’s song-writing and recording process. The vocal combination in the chorus of “Stupid Talk” proves an ability to correctly write and record a harmony as the pair of vocals layer together to deliver the line, “In the end it’s all just stupid talk.” But with the over-expressed party mantra clouding this album, there’s no chance of escape for its few bright spots. The band’s creative elasticity is barely stretched out on their debut and in the end it all just makes you shake your head.