Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What Cheer? Brigade - We Blow You Suck

My producer gives me a countdown inside my earpiece.  “Three, two, one.  We’re live.”

“Greetings fellow waveriders.  My name is Penfold.  Thank you for joining me this evening.  If you look back on my writings for The Ripple Effect you’ll discover that I enjoy telling a humorous, entertaining yarn.  It’s true.  I count humor as one of my greatest allies in the fight against musical disinterest.  Tonight however, I’m here to discuss a very serious topic that affects us all.  That’s right.  Not only does this issue affect grown men and women.  No!  It affects those most vulnerable among us…our children.  What is this issue you ask?  I’ll tell you.  We fail to properly highlight the triumphs of our day to day existence.”

“Think about this for a moment.  Did something magical happen in your life today?  Okay, perhaps magical is not the right word.  Did something great occur today thanks to your words or deeds?  Still too strong?  Fine.  Did something good happen to you today?  Ha!  I knew it!  Since that is indeed the case, allow me to follow up that question with another.  Did anyone stand up and cheer for you when this good thing transpired?  Uh huh, I thought not.  How did that make you feel?  Pretty unappreciated right?  Well I’m here to tell you that those days of feeling unappreciated are over!  That’s right folks, today we’re introducing a new product that is guaranteed to make your friends, coworkers, or anyone else around you stand up and cheer!  Behold…the What Cheer? Brigade!”

“Yes my friends.  What you see on your screen is the world’s first, and only, personalized marching band!  Your eyes do not deceive you.  For a low, low fee you can hire this fully accredited nineteen-member band to follow you or whomever you choose for an entire day.  Over the course of their employment the band will monitor your activities.  Upon receiving the agreed upon signal they will launch into an appropriately high energy, crowd moving number of your choosing.  Remember all of those unaffected people from before?  Well this highly motivational music is guaranteed to excite anyone within shouting distance.  After all, the only thing those neutral observers lack is proper motivation.  The What Cheer? Brigade will fix that quick, fast, and in a hurry!”

“With the What Cheer? Brigade in tow the good things in your day to day life will be celebrated in a manner you could previously only imagine.  Here are a few examples.  You’re at work and get the news that you’ve just been chosen for that highly sought after promotion.  Boom!  The Brigade explodes into your high school/college fight song!  A customer informs you that you went above and beyond the call of duty to help them, and that they really appreciate your efforts.  Bang!  The Brigade is right there to play an energetic, feel good Motown classic.  That cost of living raise comes through.  Bam!  Everybody starts gyrating to some serious funk thrown down by the What Cheer? band members.”

“What if you choose to send the Brigade to accompany your child?  Excellent choice.  Let’s say they get a passing grade on their most recent test or homework assignment.  Perhaps they need a self-confidence boost at some point during Physical Education class?  Maybe they’ve just been elected to student council?  Shazam!  The What Cheer? Brigade will make their bombastic presence known.  Your child will then ride a wave of adoration, imagined or real, for at least the remainder of the school day.  Trust me, kids of all ages love musicians with big drums and bigger instruments.”

“Best of all, if you call within the next twenty minutes we will slash the already low asking price in half!  That’s right!  Half off!  Fifty percent!  Simply call 1-800-NOT-REAL within the next nineteen minutes and fifty two seconds to take advantage of this special offer.  Tell them Penfold sent you!”

Waveriders, this all started with a simple assignment.  One of my bosses, the one and only Racer X, sent me out among the tubes and dump trucks that make up the internet superhighway on a fact finding mission to Skyscraper Media’s promotional site.  When I arrived I was to find out if there were any musical offerings that struck my fancy.  I browsed through the selections looking for something that really jumped off the page.  Lo and behold, most of the way down the list I see a picture of several young musicians with a variety of brass instruments, horns, and drums under the name What Cheer? Brigade.  Interesting.  What is the name of the album?  We Blow You Suck.  Haha!  That’s awesome!  The site told me to file this group under marching bands, and punk.  Ding, ding, ding!  We have a winner! 

Due to my uncanny desire to discover interesting new music that falls outside of the well-established norm I could not wait for my download to finish.  Let me tell you how ecstatic I was (and still am) when the music turned out to be better than I ever expected.  A long time ago I was in a marching band you see, so I had some idea as to what this was going to sound like.  Strangely enough, my high school marching band never sounded as cool as the What Cheer? Brigade.  Not even close!  This nineteen member strong band out of Providence, Rhode Island produces some downright infectious tunes.  There are five trumpet players, one tuba player, one sousaphone player, two saxophone players, three trombone players, four drummers, one cymbal player, and a manager.  I know that only adds up to eighteen people, but those are all the active duty members listed on their website. 

Now I know what you’re thinking.  Nineteen people?  Really?  Nineteen members make for an awfully large band, but here’s the thing.  Impressively, all the individual musicians function together flawlessly.  Seriously, this is one well-oiled machine!  The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.  Several of the songs on this album were recorded live, and there is no evidence of a misplayed or poorly timed note!  Furthermore, I would not be surprised to find out that the studio recorded songs were done in one take by the full band in one large room.  I’m probably wrong about this, but the ‘one big room scenario’ is the way I personally like to picture the recording session.  Now let’s get into the songs.

The What Cheer? Brigade describes their sound as “an aggressive mix of Bollywood, The Balkans, New Orleans, Samba and Hip-Hop, played with the intensity of metal”.  Unfortunately I am not qualified to confirm or deny the first portion of this statement as I am not very familiar with the musical elements of Bollywood, and I know nothing about music from the Balkans.  I apologize.  What I can say is that this music is undeniably intense and that I clearly hear the jazziness of New Orleans, the drive of samba music, and the funkiness inherent in hip-hop all throughout these songs.  Album opener “Malaguena” is Latin to the core.  “Green Eyes” and “Ederlezi” paint the picture of a band marching down a street in New Orleans strutting their stuff.  “Missy Sa-Sa” and “Ja Helo” each have thunderous drumming comparable to the best hip-hop beats.  If there is one song on the album that I would refer to as punk, it would definitely be the up-tempo barn burner “13 Monsters”.  The beginning of this track even has hardcore-esque shout along vocals.  To top everything off did I mention that they do a cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood” that they call “Raining Buba”?  That’s right people, and do you know what?  Similar to the original, it rules!  As a matter of fact whenever I currently think about that song, more often than not I hear the What Cheer? Brigade version in my head.  I call that a ringing endorsement!

Waveriders, every now and then in your listening life you have the opportunity to come across something different.  Something that is outside of your established patterns of likes and dislikes.  The What Cheer? Brigade is something different, and I’m here to tell you that this band is good.  Really, really good!  Take a chance on this crew.  You won’t regret it.  Just don’t blame me when you start rifling through your closet/attic searching for that old instrument (it has to be somewhere!?!) that will allow you to play along.


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