Do not take Cheekface if you’re allergic to Cheekface. Cheekface may cause side effects, including, but not limited to extreme giddiness, ennui, hopefulness, hopelessness, singing along punctuated by occasional shouting and the abandonment of investment in the future.
The three active ingredients in Cheekface include lead talk-singer and guitarist Greg Katz, who is not a real doctor, paid spokesperson Amanda Tannen on bass, vocals and album art, and actual customer Mark “Echo” Edwards on drums and percussion.
Although they bill themselves as America’s Local Band, Cheekface was created in a Los Angeles laboratory by combining equal parts “Psycho Killer”-era Talking Heads, “Dare To Be Stupid”-era “Weird Al” Yankovic, Pavement, Cake, Soul Coughing, and mixing in foreign and inactive ingredients The Fall, Art Brut and their Chicagoland impressionists, Team Band.
Efficacy of this combination has not been evaluated by the FDA, but if you’re a fan of the tuneful pop-with-a-sense-of-humor approach of the late, lamented Fountains Of Wayne, Cheekface may be right for you. It’s telling that they were featured on “Saving For a Custom Van” (the tribute to Fountain of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, who died of COVID-19 in 2020), contributing a faithful version of “That Thing You Do.” They’ve also covered “Ana Ng” by They Might Be Giants, another indicator of their adherence to the Gospel of Quirk, but just like that Brooklyn duo, if the melodies and tunes weren’t winners, the effect of Cheekface would not be significant when compared to placebo.
You do not need to contact your doctor, you need only trust my assessment that if you’re looking for the perfect soundtrack for the twenty-first century pandemic-centric paranoia and anxiety, then Cheekface is right for you.
Cheekface is best consumed in the form of 2021’s “Emphatically No,” its second full-length and its companion piece, “Emphatically Mo,” allegedly a collection of B-sides that are just as good as the stellar album. The trio formed in early 2017 as a reaction to Trump’s inauguration, but any references to the foreign, sorry, former president are thickly veiled, almost as well as the Smiths allusion buried inside their personal “Cemetry Gates” [sic].
On the anthemic kick-off cut and inspiration for the title—“Listen to your heart.” “no.”—the threesome expresses its philosophy: “Just because it’s funny doesn’t make it a joke, now stop meditating and take me to go bowl.” While Cheekface may contain humor, its remedy to modern ennui is not a joke, and I can’t help wondering if the bowling alley is the destination for Camper Van Beethoven’s skinheads or Michael Moore’s Columbine kids. To call the shouted “No” on the choruses emphatic is an understatement.
Patients who have taken Cheekface have related to the litany of modern medications such as Ativan, Zoloft, Tylenol, anxiety plus caffeine, and its lyrics are just as stream-of-consciousness as mockumentaries (such the Christopher Guest run of “A Mighty Wind,” “Best In Show,” “Waiting For Guffman” and “For Your Consideration”) are improvised, which is to say, not at all. But the sense of humor is similar; more deadpan than Steven Wright’s discarded wok.
Judging by the lyrics of “Best Life,” Cheekface is not pathologically incapable of sincerity; its members are “writers, creators, we work remotely,” and worst of all, they “don’t want instructions but don’t want to know what to do.”
Follow the instructions provided by your doctor and pharmacist if you try Cheekface, and note the indications and directions will include alien landings, TED Talks, bread dropped with butter-side down (“I’m sure it’s nothing, it’s probably fine,” they argue unconvincingly on the song that also espouses bringing “Crying Back”), super-volcanoes, mall visits (featuring a canary in a gold mine, not a coal mine), edible arrangements, La Croix, referees, security deposits, pink Starburst, Sprite bottles, dogs and cats living together, croutons, neck tattoos, Panda Express, low-interest rates, statements of disclosures, participation trophies, PBS NewsHour, a curious obsession with dandruff and “a phone call from unknown, I answer it just so I have someone to talk to.”
Cheekface will provide the perfect cure, or at least alleviate the symptoms of today’s human frailty, as they talk-sing on “Friend Mountain” thusly: “Hope was lost, but hope sucked anyway.” In today’s dumpster fire of existence, Cheekface argues that “We Need A Bigger Dumpster,” and although they encounter modern problems throughout this walking contradiction, as the chorus repeats succinctly, “Everything is fine.” Indeed, Cheekface is the musical equivalent of that now-ubiquitous trope of the post-Trump generation, the cartoon dog wearing the hat (Question Hound), sitting at a table while the house he is sitting in is engulfed in flames (originally created by cartoonist KC Green). The thought bubble emanating from the dog’s head reads, “This is fine.”
Patients who take Cheekface may notice, “Everything is OK, got my old phone replaced, now I do nothing faster than I did yesterday,” as indicated when telling the slow joke of “Wedding Guests.” Even when some of the jokes seem like received wisdom and played out (“Life is long, like a CVS receipt”), it’s as if the trio is using tired jokes to reflect its tiredness when faced with the sheer exhaustion of modern-day (modern-world) life.
Consider when consuming Cheekface that life itself is a preexisting condition, and can best be viewed through the “exploded SpaghettiOs on the microwave window of the sky,” a picture painted in the lyrics of the whistling-while-Rome-burns “Original Composition.”
Patients taking Cheekface may find themselves “announcing loudly, I don’t know what’s going on, I tried turning it off and then turning it back on, do I look better when I’m suffering?,” and concluding that there is “No Connection.”
Additional side effects may include the discovery that patients have “memories that aren’t that good” and “have dreams, and dreams aren’t that good.” “Everybody’s free, free to drink sunscreen,” Katz encourages in another great line treated as a throwaway, but he can’t help but add the caveat that “this song is not medical advice, ask your doctor if sunscreen is right for you.”
It’s easy to imagine Cheekface stuck on the 101 and coming up with the vigorous punk-sped catalogue of modern mysteries that is the two-minute “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Calabasas,” one of the shorter numbers from a band that has yet to produce a single song that ticks north of four minutes.
Cheekface may not be recommended if you have certain genetic conditions, as the band comes from “a long line of people, a long line of people who procreated,” and they inspire pathos from the faculty. “Consumer behavior has come to an end, take back your deposit, and bring a big, big friend,” they invite on “Big Big Friend,” and that “long line of people” becomes “problematic” as the song progresses.
“Call your doctor immediately if you face-plant in the salad bowl” and “Sometimes I wonder if a single good thing exists on earth, and then I eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” Katz intones on “Don’t Get Hit By A Car.” And yet he still draws the choral conclusion that “everything is boring now, I can’t help it, I can’t help it.” Cheekface will not necessarily create the side effect of hopelessness, as “There’s unlimited breadsticks on the buffet of life,” they sing at the beginning of “Loyal Like Me,” doing drugs off their friends’ bodies and grinding coffee beans into coffee seeds.
An opportunity to enroll in a clinical trial of Cheekface will occur at Beat Kitchen on Saturday, July 23. Bad Moves may be consumed prior to Cheekface if those enrolling in the clinical trial arrive when the concert begins at 9pm. Only individuals who are seventeen and older may enroll in this particular clinical trial.
Craig Bechtel is a freelance writer and has also been a Senior Staff Writer for Pop’stache. He is also a DJ, volunteer and Assistant Music Director for CHIRP Radio, 107.1 FM, and contributes occasionally to the CHIRP blog. As DJ Craig Reptile, you can hear him play music on the FM dial or at www.chirpradio.org most Sunday nights from 6pm to 9pm. He previously worked in radio at KVOE AM and Fox 105 in Emporia, Kansas, and served as a DJ, music director and general manager for WVKC at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he also won the Davenport Prize for Poetry and earned a B.A. in English writing. Craig has been working in various capacities within the hotel and meetings industry for over twenty years, and presently works at a company that uses proprietary systems to develop proven data strategies that increase revenue, room nights and meeting attendance. In his spare time, he also fancies himself an armchair herpetologist, and thus in addition to a wife, son and cat, he has a day gecko and a veiled chameleon in his collection.