A person's early 20s are an often frustrating time, full of bewildering possibilities and significantly fewer real opportunities, particularly in this current economy. Cheap Girls, a Lansing trio, capture the emotional tenor of this time like a snapshot, channeling the angst and indecision through chunky two- to three-minute paeans inspired by alt-rock forebears of two decades hence. The thick, distortion-drenched three- and four-chord blitzes recall such pre-grunge icons as the Lemonheads, Superchunk and Buffalo Tom, with their amped-up, highly melodic odes to slackers, potheads and dreamers. Singer-bassist Ian Graham's nasal, importuning croon definitely recalls BT's Bill Janovitz, as he captures that youthful time of leaking idealism on an album titled, with apt irony, My Roaring 20's.
Featuring only 10 tracks stretching just beyond 27 minutes, it's over almost before you know it — but the writing's so strong it makes a deep impression. The follow-up to last year's debut, Find Me a Drink Home, it boasts several stand-out tracks, especially "Ft. Lauderdale," which ponders the self-delusion of thinking you're creative through the eyes of a waitress and a valet while worrying "one dimension isn't fine, I need two." On "Hey Hey, I'm Worn Out," he notes how "all my friends with degrees, they're standing behind counters making minimum wage with me." "Sleeping Weather" admits "we don't have any money, but we've got credit cards," while "Something I Need" sees the singer looking "shook up or just abandoned, hey, you just make the call." The music's as catchy and anthemic as the tone is dispirited, culminating in the next-to-last track, "All My Clean Friends," which imagines what's left when smoking buddies get jobs, grow up or move away. "I've been living in a world of short, sharp pain," Graham sings. "We don't think too much, but the rent gets paid." Sometimes that's the best you can hope for, and Cheap Girls have written a soundtrack for muddling through.
Cheap Girls play Sunday, Dec. 27, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700. With Mustard Plug, Flatfoot 56, Amino Acids and We Are the Unions.
Chris Parker writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.