It’s the fairytale of the Irish DIY music scene – band records album, band uploads album to internet as a free download, band members’ lives change dramatically. The story of how Swords foursome The Cast of Cheers came to become one of the country’s most promising musical exports off the back of debut album Chariot is an enduring one – the initial hype, the subsequent acclaim, the stellar live reputation, the Choice Prize nomination, the relocation to London, the gear theft, the BBC playlisting, the votes of confidence from UK musical tastemakers – not so much a chariot ride as it has been a rollercoaster. And now here they are, signed to a proper label and about to unleash the much anticipated follow-up. We’d be lying if we said there weren’t very high expectations.
Across the pond, Family will be marketed as their debut album – but the 150,000+ people who downloaded Chariot via Bandcamp and continually hold it in very high regard will always know better, and in time it’ll become a coveted digital souvenir. ‘Goose’ is the sole survivor of the Chariot brigade – still as vibrant as ever, but the raw edges glossed over by the slick production of Luke Smith (of Foals and We Have Band fame). Title track and lead single ‘Family’ has done its job as a mighty fine calling-card for the album – and its positioning as opening track is spot on, setting the tone for what’s to follow perfectly. The irresistible riff and charming hooks of the album’s second single ‘Animals’ sound impossibly fresh – it’s too damn catchy to have fallen victim to the staleness which can sometimes result from excessive advance airplay.
Although The Cast of Cheers have stayed true to their musical roots throughout, there are major advances both vocally and lyrically. Conor Adams tests his range confidently throughout, in particular on ‘Palace and the Run’ – the deceptive slow-set of the album, with its exquisitely executed gradual build towards an explosive bridge. There’s plenty on offer in terms of variety, with explorations in rhythm and tempo throughout the effects-heavy production. Bass and guitar riffs staunchly battle against eachother yet combine beautifully to form the basis of ‘Go Getter’; whereas ‘Pose Mit’ is structured around a simple descending arpeggio bassline enhanced by percussive flourishes – including a thrilling cymbal-heavy climax – make it shine. The percussive elements of ‘Marso Sava’ too are to be celebrated, as The Cast of Cheers go on somewhat of a Caribbean adventure under the influence of Vampire Weekend. The blistering pace and spiralling instrumental race-to-the-finish of ‘Trucks at Night’ and the measured frenzy and anthemic chorus of ‘They Call It A Night’ are vintage elements of The Cast of Cheers sound, and crying out to make the jump from studio to stage.
There’s something great to be said about every single track on this album – and after countless listens, there’s a different standout every time. The Cast of Cheers have worked hard to establish their reputation as one of Ireland’s best guitar bands – and in Family they have more than got the goods to back it up. It’s always important to look back to look forward – and in doing so, it makes the sonic merits of this record even more remarkable. It’s is an album that deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. Loudly… and repeatedly.