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Dan Baker

CD of The Week

Week of 6/13/22

    Jukebox The Ghost - Cheers (This Fiction / BMG)

    Indie pop-rockers Jukebox the Ghost have returned with their sixth studio album, Cheers, and are pulling no punches. The self-produced record follows 2018’s Off to the Races and demonstrates how far the trio has come as it ushers in a new era of their career. Cheers offers reflection, introspection, and hope at a time when the world seems to be short on all three. Sonically it combines the elements that have made the group so unique - catchy pop tunes with crunchy guitars, twinges of classic piano with a modern twist, and robust vocal harmonies to truly highlight the lyrics.

    The album opens with a very salient “Century in the Making (Intro),” a short harmonic song whose lyrics align with the current point in history. “Every hundred years or so it seems, there’s a new and untold story. And the words start to rise as the page meets another. The ground below is shaking. It’s a century in the making.” Transitioning into “Hey Maude,” pianist Ben Thornewill’s tenor vocals begin to shine. The song perfectly blends Thornewill’s classical piano with guitarist Tommy Siegel’s modern riffs. Continuing with the theme of reflection, “Wasted” recounts memories of living in New York City during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. “New York, you never sleep. That night I swear that you were sleeping.” Ultimately the song’s subtext seems to use the storm and its aftermath as a defining moment of maturity - comparing the times before the storm as “long before we cared about winning, or worrying about our parents getting older.”

    Thornewill’s vocals truly flourish on “Million Dollar Bills,” a catchy song written about the rise of cryptocurrency and NFTs, proclaiming, “Gotta give them what they want, tell them that they want it, gotta give the people what they want when they want it.” His stunning falsetto is on display in “Brass Band,” a song seemingly combining elements of classical composers with modern pop production.

    Cheers brings the return of Siegel’s patented end-of-the-world narratives. Much like “Wasted,” Siegel’s “Ramona” extends a comforting message to the titular character as a storm grows off the shore, culminating in watching the world end from the water and waiting to see the world that’s left over. “Us Against the World” plays with the futility of living in the past, opening with “We were born to be crushed by the city into dust,” and later bluntly stating “So don’t look back on the cities that are burning, that’s the past.” “How the World Began” rounds out the apocalypse, offering hope in a hypothetical world that started with a record-setting tidal wave that hit Los Angeles and other areas, ushering in a society with no need for money, guns, or banks.

    Never one to shy away from Queen as a major influence, it has rarely been on display as much as title track, “Cheers!” Daringly theatric vocal harmonies mix seamlessly with in-your-face piano and guitar duets. Thornewill seems to channel the spirit of Freddie Mercury, while Siegel’s guitars fit in with those of Brian May.

    Cliche as it is to say, Cheers brings something to the table for everyone. Jukebox the Ghost has always been a fun band to listen to, dance to, and sing along with, but it seems they’ve truly hit their stride and have announced it with as loud - and catchy - a bang as possible.

    Jukebox the Ghost will be playing a free show at the Haddon Heights Sundown Music Series on August 3rd and bring the Cheers tour to Union Transfer on September 28th.

    Review by Dan Baker

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