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Streetwalkin' Cheetahs Gainesville

By David Tarlow, Contributor
Thursday, December 2, 2004 @ 10:40 PM


(Triple X)

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This album was released late last year and, despite receiving critical praise in Rolling Stone and other big mags, came and went without a trace. Hell, it wasn’t even reviewed here, where lead singer Frank Meyer served on the friggin’ editorial staff. Shame too, because in addition to being the band’s swan song effort, Gainesville, is among the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs finest albums, and certainly their most diverse.

Known primarily as a Motor City-style punk rawk ‘n’ roll act, the Cheetahs stretch out here and flex their songwriting muscles and musical chops, veering from high energy hard rock to country to ‘70s arena rock with nary a care in the world. Be it the Alice Cooper/Mott the Hoople boogie of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fade Away,” the Monster Magnet metal of “When God & the Devil Agree,” or the Aerosmith-n-Roses groove of “Preach,” the Cheetahs are clearly out prove they ain’t no one-trick pony.

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Though the band has strayed into jagged-power-pop territory before, never have the hooks been so sugar sweet as on “Geek Like Me” and “December in a Day.” Unlikely slower numbers like “Ward 6” and “Crucified” find the band in a mode few could have suspected based on the relentless zeal of their earlier albums. Heck, the countrified Burrito Bros-twang of “On My Way” is downright stupefying.

Fear not though, Cheetah fans, the boys still bring the rock big time on moshers like “Destination Zero,” “Strangled By Love,” and “Born Leader.” They enlist Bellrays guitarist Tony Fate on bass for six out of the 16 tunes, and he even co-wrote the Social Distortion-esque “One In The Chamber.” But it’s the last number, the epic “Kiss Me Twice Goodnight,” that steals the show, with it’s massive “Green Manalishi”-style riff, Cheap Trick-sounding chorus, and Pink Floyd knock-off coda. Fuckin’ awesome.

However, there is one major problem with this self-proclaimed concept-album, and it serves as the band's greatest strength and biggest weakness: for the most part, it’s way too diverse for anyone who digs the full-throttle attack of previous Cheetahs albums or is buying this based on their live show. I wonder how many of their younger fans even know who the Pretty Things or the Kinks are, two bands the Cheetahs seem to draw from in abundance here? I wonder if opening the album with an acoustic ballad lead by a Mellatron (“Good Morning”) was such a good idea, being that it pretty much goes against everything the band seemed to stand for? Good song? Yes. A big “Fuck you” to their own audience? It would seem so.

It’s no surprise the band broke up after this album, as you can practically hear them fighting as to the direction of the music on every cut. It makes for a fascinating, wild ride, and every tune is a well-thought-out mini-masterpiece, but… Sheesh, who the hell tries to cover this much ground on one album? This is clearly the Cheetahs stab at making their own Exile on Main Street, but the question remains as to whether it ended up being their The Elder. No matter though, the tunes are great and the band is broken up now, so there’s no one around to answer any questions anyway.

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