Experience Involuntary Dance Spasms with CHERUB
Don’t you just hate it when you’re DJing at some casual house party and someone walks up to you and asks, “Hey, can you play something that’s kind of like 80’s post-funk electro-pop with some hip-hop/R&B influences?” To which you of course respond with, “Well I could put on some LCD Soundsystem, if that’s what you mean?” Then they get all upset and yell, “I said post-funk electro-pop! Not alternative-dance punk!”
It’s so frustrating right? No? Ok…
Anyway, inside that peculiar genre resides a particular standout duo whose delicious falsetto hooks and punchy bass lines snake their way into your earholes, infecting all listeners with an inexplicable desire to dance like no one is watching. All while keeping the subject matter as innocuous and hedonistic as possible.
This band goes by the name Cherub, and they’ve been giving all dedicated partiers nationwide an excuse to spice up playlists with funky guitar melodies and tasty songs about mimosas and cocaine since 2010. Cherub features Nashville natives Jordan Kelley on song-writing and silky falsetto and Jason Huber on wet guitar licks, synth, and live production duty. The two had a crazy busy last two years gaining momentum throughout the states, performing everywhere from festivals like Outsidelands and SXSW to more intimate bars and club venues. I had the pleasure of seeing them in Santa Cruz at the Catalyst Club on a night marked with passionate crowd singalongs and funk that is just too filthy to not dance too. I literally saw a man in a wheelchair, touched by the hand of funk, stand up and start getting down with his bad self like Terio (OOH KILL ‘EM)
It’s on the strength of their 8 song EP ‘Man of the Hour’ and their full length album ‘MoM & DaD’ from 2012 that Cherub have begun to generate what is looking more and more like a loyal cult fan base. Cherub can seem a bit stale and trite at times: during ‘Dear Body’ they feel it necessary to remind us that “every day brings a new tomorrow,” almost as frustrating as an undershirt clad Steve Johnson during a press session. C’mon man! Other than that, it doesn’t seem like a cult following would be at all unwarranted. Moments like this are bound to crop up on a debut album, especially considering the nature of the sound that a band like Cherub is going for, which is essentially just a deeper form of shallow. The music is inherently plastic and “pop-ey”, but the form is handled deftly and is intriguingly self-aware. In their own words, “Pop music has gotten a bad wrap lately due to people thinking it’s all like the radio, but most of our favorite music is pop. There is nothing like a catchy song!”¹
None of that is to say that Cherub comes off as cookie cutter or copy-paste hit radio music. Sonically, Cherub’s reliance on falsetto vocals, rugged backbeats, and heavily processed guitar and synth melodic lines comes off as anything but vanilla. Living on the edge of what electronics can do to distort sound, the production value of all Cherub’s music lives on the cutting edge of technology. Don’t let the nicely quantized drum machines and melodies fool you; we’re dealing with some really potentially explosive electronic capabilities here. This really peeks out during the instrumental break at the end of ‘Doses and Mimosas’ and the entire beat to ‘Hold me’. The delicate balance that is found between live instruments and effects that Cherub achieves is akin to watching the late great Steve Erwin wrestle with alligators, or Woody and Buzz launch themselves into Andy’s Car with a rocket at the end of Toy Story 1. Control over the medium is an illusion. They’re not flying, they’re falling with style.
Lyrically ‘MoM and DaD’ bears the same by the seat of their pants approach. Less poetry, more how can we make regular things sound poetic. Essentially, a ton of things in life are a huge bummer (read: love, work, hangovers). Cherub says, fuck that, if we’re gonna have to deal with it, we’re gonna dance and sing about it. The result is an album where every song has infinitely sing-along-able moments. Before Cherub, I’d only shouted, “Doses and Mimosas/Champagne and cocaine/ help to get me through,” at the top of my lungs in that crazy recurring Scarface dream that I used to have in high school. Other notables: “I don’t want to wake up/Just want to keep my eyes shut,” “Monogamy is not for me/ I want to do whatever I please,” “Dear body/Sorry for last night.” Essentially Cherub takes conversation and makes it catchy. All of their lyrics feel like thoughts pulled literally right from my brain or groans I made lying face first on the ground in a swamp of hangover regret. But fuckitdoe, my misery might as well be funky.
Cherub’s strong grasp on such a unique genre and sound are what truly set them apart for me. So far Cherub has passed the ‘My parents’ test with the grade “What is this? Please turn this off” and the ‘My little siblings’ test with the grade “What’s up with this guy’s voice? I guess it’s alright, why aren’t we listening to…” both very high marks. The world has been waiting for sounds to fill the post-funk electro-pop void, and a successor has been found in Cherub. Can you handle the funk?
Listen if you like: Fun, Baltering, Soundtracking your life with funk
Don’t listen if you prefer: Cuddling up with your dog and watching “When Harry Met Sally” for the 80th time on Saturday nights, libraries
Further Reading: Official Website