I don’t think anyone can claim to be “pretentious” and have a Chicagoland zip code, and if they are, then the joke is on them. After all, it’s a city rooted on the back of the working class, and anyone with the good fortune in Chicago to get through life without dirtying their hands a few times isn’t really credible enough to warrant a position. Cheer-Accident has been dirtying their hands in some form or another for over twenty-years and it’s obvious that music is the fruit of their hard work. Music is a commodity that a lot of folks would rather be simple, pleasant, and easy to understand. Cheer-Accident’s music isn’t “easy to understand,” and as trying as that can be for some, I’d like to believe that they would rather you admire the craftsmanship that goes into their work instead of having it come off an assembly line, closely resembling the product that came immediately before it.
That’s just a polite way of saying Cheer-Accident’s catalog can be a maddening endeavor for the listener as each release seems to explore the musical whim of their moment. And they all seemed ripe for a strong producer (or at the very least an editor) as the band has been known to lay down tracks that surpass twenty minutes.
What Sequel? finds the band actually introducing the word “concise” into their terminology, thanks in large part to the efforts of producer John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea And Cake). None of the tracks exceed the 6:38 mark, which means that all of the band’s idiosyncrasies and progressive leanings have to be dealt with efficiently or in the guise of another song title.
There seems to be a couple of conflicting directions going on in What Sequel? The math-rock tendencies of “Surviving A Methopology,” the what-were-they-thinking opener “Keep In Touch,” and the King Crimson playbook “Crisis Management” all seem frustratingly out of place in this album of generally competent avant-garde rock.
These missteps are even more aggravating because What Sequel? has some real moments of forward movement.
“You Know You Know” ebbs and flows between lilting piano chords, time changes, and delicate horn punctuations. “Simple Life” takes a left turn through some heavily overdubbed guitars and the return of some nifty hornwork.
While the album may have started off on the wrong foot with “Keep In Touch,” it certainly ends on the right one with “Crazy.” Starting with simple piano progression, a driving drum pattern is introduced that propels the song towards a climatic ivory duel after (cleverly) getting hung up on leader Thymme Jones repeating the word “crazy” over and over for 32 measures.
At times What Sequel? sounds like the lost mid-70’s album that Todd Rundgren never made. Thymme occasionally comes across as a dead-ringer for Todd, and not just vocally, but in terms of humor, style and talent. Now Rundgren can be unbearably frustrating too, and Cheer-Accident hasn’t made its Something/Anything yet for us to use as a benchmark. With What Sequel? they’re getting closer to a benchmark of their own.