Music doesn’t always cater to a mainstream audience. When this happens, it sometimes gets dismissed as ‘just noise.’ Noise Rock, whose origins lie at the heart of the American counterculture, certainly has its niche audience. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground created music that challenged traditional songwriting. Going against normal sensibilities, they chose to explore transgressive subject matter such as nihilism and drug abuse. The early 90s saw a lot of experimental rock exposed to a wider audience. Much of this is due to the popularity of the grunge scene. The Butthole Surfers, in particular, achieved a brief period of mainstream notoriety. Since then, the genre, like so many others, is now more accessible than ever.
Cherubs, a noise rock outfit from Texas, had a brief run during this time period. At one point receiving high praise from British disc Jockey John Peel. The group released two albums, Icing (1992) and Heroin Man (1994) before disbanding. They’ve since reunited and this year have released their fourth studio album, Immaculada High. Some bands might have lost their ability to deliver after such a long hiatus. Much like a bottle of fine wine, Cherubs appear to have gotten better with age. On this release, in particular, their sound is reminiscent of Unsane, Shellac, as well as MC5. Immaculada high is more than just a noise album. It’s abrasive and unrelenting. If the genre has been known for its tendencies to be transgressive against sensibilities, then Cherubs are slowly dragging their nails across the chalkboard with sheer delight.
Immaculada High starts off with “Turista," which immediately sets the album's tone. It begins with Brent Prager’s slow drumming until Owen McMahon (bass) and Kevin Whitley (guitar) break the stillness, swimming in a sea of distortion. The vocals, just as abrasive as the music they accompany, strike from out of nowhere. If there’s any doubt that Cherubs are only capable of abrasiveness and nothing else, “IMCG” silences any and all skepticism. The combination of shoegaze, dissonance, and atmosphere lends itself perfectly to the aesthetic the song possesses. It’s an impressive showing of mood as the song descends into bedlam and then ends abruptly. “Nobodies,” the albums’ six-minute closer pummels the listener into submission. McMahon’s bass tone cuts straight through the mix and becomes the driving force of the song. Cherubs' continually demonstrate their ability to simulate deconstruction through their compositions.
If there’s one phrase that seems to reverberate throughout this album, it’s ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ In the two decades that Cherubs were on hiatus, much has changed with the world of music. After all, it’s a landscape that’s constantly evolving in a variety of different ways. This isn’t just a case of a band making a triumphant return. Not only have Cherubs retained the qualities which made them unique. They’re standing tall amongst their contemporaries. Immaculada High is a testament to their musicianship and cohesiveness as a unit. Within these songs, there’s a great deal of anger, and it’s ready to be passed from one generation to the next.