Cheap Meat – ‘People Are The Worst’

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On the surface, Cheap Meat don’t take themselves completely seriously. Their debut outing, 2016’s ‘The Parts That Show’ EP, contained plenty of hook-filled moments that were reminiscent of Weezer, with lyrical cliches throughout. Since then, the London trio have taken time away to focus on individual personal issues; vocalist/guitarist Ross Drummond and bassist/vocalist Peter Hakola both been diagnosed with mental health issues, while drummer Matt Rebeiro has been embracing fatherhood.

Having reconvened, the three-piece make a return with the (somewhat) tongue-in-cheek titled ‘People Are The Worst’. With a name like that, their personal experiences, and having lived through a turbulent sociopolitical climate, some might think Cheap Meat would have taken things in another direction on their debut full-length; more personal, darker, and angry. Instead, they’ve honed in on their strengths.

From the outset, ‘Spoons & Other Cutlery’ lays out the template of writing power-pop rock songs with plenty of lyrical wit. Drummond’s words are delivered with quirky sincerity – “buy your meal deal girl for just one kiss”. Sure, they’re not going to sit well with every listener, but they have a certain charm. An accompanying bright chorus made up of anthemic guitars and a driving rhythm section simply adds to the favourable opener. ‘Pretzels & Poptarts’, and later on ‘A Pop of Bubblegum’, follow in a similar vein, leaning on a reliable short time frame.

‘Eddie & Valerie’ highlights Drummond’s strong vocals while treading a fine line of questionable lyrics (“I wanna slow dance to power ballads… I’ll be your Eddie and you will be my Valerie”), and a thrilling guitar solo adds to the infectious melting pot. Drummond’s fret-play also stands out on ‘Lust, and That’s All’, highlighting Cheap Meat’s full-on rock tendencies rather than relying on catchy hooks – though unfortunately, a weak chorus slightly dampens the momentum.

The tough realities of what the trio have been through come to light on ‘Pasodoble’, with Drummond reaching out to a troubled friend who is dependent on alcohol. When combined with its driving pace and stirring guitar work, it makes for a poignant yet impressive highlight.

For all the hooks Cheap Meat showcase throughout ‘People Are The Worst’, songs such as ‘Marigold Moon’ show they’re not afraid to go down a dark route; drifting guitars burst through with a stirring heaviness that doesn’t outstay its welcome. Likewise ‘Blasé’ comfortably puts one foot in grunge territory with a reserved tempo and textured bass complimenting Drummond’s sincere words.

For the most part, ‘People Are The Worst’ confidently succeeds in its purpose of highlighting Cheap Meat’s positives. Its fair share of hooks and riffs make it a comfortable listen, even if the 7-plus minute finale ‘Love Song Reject’ oversteps the mark with its prolonged solo and expected key changes.

Despite all this, Cheap Meat still don’t quite carve out their own identity. The riffs-meets-power-pop schtick has been done before – bands like Weezer and Puppy come to mind – with less varied results than here – however, for Cheap Meat, ‘People Are The Worst’ should be seen as a stepping stone. They have the hooks, lyrical charm and instrumental durability in their arsenal, they’ve just not quite delivered an album that demands repeated listens.

SÊAN REID

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