Introducing Lemon


Skin Graft Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


How do I describe Cheer-Accident? That’s not a rhetorical question. Cheer-Accident is one of the most eccentric groups I have had the fortune of coming across. Just as you think you’ve got them pinned down, they’ll throw a curveball and let the listener try and make sense of it. This is the kind of band where no two albums that sound alike, so it’s really tough to sum up just what their deal is. They seem hell-bent on finding out what your expectations might be and then tearing those expectations to pieces. No wonder the kind of music they play is often given the moniker “Rock In Opposition.”

2003’s Introducing Lemon goes just as far with its odd vibes as any other Cheer-Accident record, but it attempts to unify many of the disparate elements the band is capable of, which makes it one of the few records they’ve done that almost makes for a good representative of the band’s discography. It’s the one disc most fans of the band could probably find common ground on, as long as they’re amiable to a major taste of the bizarre.

Most of the tracks are instrumental or only feature sporadic vocals, and more often than not tend to be led by crunchy guitars and some incredible drum playing from bandleader Thymme Jones. If anything unifies Cheer-Accident’s messy discography, it’s his drumming, and the playing here is no exception. It almost approaches “lead instrument” status at times. The ever-changing polyrhythmic bashing never stops being interesting to listen to as it continually propels the music forward.

The record itself is sequenced in a sort of sandwich shape. Two lengthy pieces bookend the album with a series of seven shorter songs in the middle. The short tunes are positively all over the place. The first of these is undoubtedly the most bizarre track on the album. I’m still divided over whether or not “Camp O'Physique” is a good song or not. It sounds like Captain Beefheart fronting Ween or something but even that doesn’t really make sense of the track. The vocalist sounds totally out of his head with his eerie spoken ramblings. It’s likely intentionally off-putting to an extent but it’s undeniably interesting.

“Zervas,” “Track 29,” and “(The) Men’s Wide Open” are all rhythmically complex rock instrumentals, which veer wildly from vaguely Arabic themes to disturbing choruses of nonsensical vocal muttering, immense washes of distortion, and dramatic shifts between soft and loud. “The Day After I Never Met You” feels a little slight on the album at barely over two-and-a-half minutes, but it’s the first taste of normal singing we get featuring a vocal melody and everything. However, they can’t keep things conventional for too long, as they barely get a verse out before the track immediately shifts into yet another fascinating hodge-podge of musical ideas. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

After all of this, suddenly out of nowhere comes a completely normal song! “Smile” is a snappy indie pop-rocker with a cool riff that almost sounds a little like Guided By Voices. It would have made for a great single if the band were interested in such things. As it ends, it segues into “While” which, for half of its duration, is essentially an ambient piece in the Brian Eno tradition. Heavily delayed pianos and guitar loops pile on top of one another making for quite the odd beauty. Eventually it morphs into something totally different, providing background for a short monologue from what sounds like an old radio broadcast.

The two epic tracks could probably form an album all on their own if the band had wanted; they’re undeniably the main attraction here. But they work well with the other tracks wedged between them as a sort of extended intermission. “The Autumn Wind Is A Pirate” meanders a bit at first with a raw brass-led math rock jam, but after a few minutes it latches on to a musical theme that the band continues to explore throughout the majority of the track. It has a lovely acoustic guitar driven melody at its core, but they come at it from all angles: extremely quiet, incredibly loud, relaxed, aggressive, dissonant, beautiful – they throw all sorts of variations into the mix and it flows beautifully. Eventually it returns to the more aggressive theme the track opened with and coming after the incredible mid-section, the theme is imbued with a new sense of purpose. This is the sort of piece that is easy to get lost in as it ebbs and flows over its 22 minutes, only to be broken by the utter lunacy of “Camp O’Physique” once it concludes.

Album closer “Find” is significantly more linear than its more cohesive opening counterpart. There’s a memorable (but far too brief) vocal portion near the beginning, which sounds about as “typical” as it’s possible for a Cheer-Accident song to sound, but quickly they once again set off for territory unknown. The general structure is similar to “The Autumn Wind Is A Pirate” since it latches on to a theme in the middle. The theme this time around is a chilled-out, mostly unaccompanied (except for some vocal harmonies), electric guitar idea. The band takes more of a textured approach with this theme, so it makes sense that they don’t explore it with quite the same amount of gusto as the other track. After that, it jumps around a bunch more with twisted atmospheres alternating with kickin' math rock jamming bringing the album to a close. On the whole, this track is a little more difficult to pin down than “Autumn Wind.” But the vibe is totally different, generally more moody with some really neat vocal sections throughout. I could see some people preferring “Find” over “Autumn Wind” just because of that. “Find” doesn’t hold together quite as well as a standalone piece, but it functions a little better in the context of the album, so I think it’s only fair to call the battle between the two a draw.

Introducing Lemon might not be the first album a person should get from Cheer-Accident (I recommend Babies Shouldn’t Smoke to post-punk fans, Fear Draws Misfortune to progressive rock fans, Sever Roots Tree Dies to avant-garde fans, and What Sequel? to art pop fans) but it’s absolutely an essential piece of the puzzle that is Cheer-Accident, and one of the most fascinating albums of the ‘00s. A lover of traditional song forms might find this album a little tough to swallow since there’s merely one “proper” song on this entire 70+ minute record. But those who want to go on a fascinating and unpredictable musical journey will find that this album will take them on the trip they’re looking for and then some.

Rating: A-

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© 2013 Ken DiTomaso and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Skin Graft Records, and is used for informational purposes only.