The term “noise pop” may be an inherently and deliberately kitschy oxymoron. But if any band makes the case that the two disparate forms can achieve synergy, it’s Cherry Glazerr. With Stuffed & Ready, the Los Angeles band’s third LP, this tapestry-like amalgamation of contradictory genres is at its most palatable, a bristly and savage exterior with a sugary core that helps it go down easy.
A feel of apocalyptic joy, of reveling as corrupt pillars and institutions crumble into chaos, pervades the records. Those insidious rituals being lain asunder, though, exist internally and externally, with writer-singer-guitarist Clementine Creevy giving them equal attention. Songs with an impressionistically confessional focus (“Juicy Socks”, “Stupid Fish”) abut the more polemical or socially critical (“Wasted Nun”, “Daddi”). Frequently, simmering rage is given voice in incendiary instrumentation, with a righteous fury lashing out and narrators refusing to kowtow.
Yet despite the outwardly directed ire and inwardly pointed insights, the tunes don’t get lost in being confrontational, as is owed to the catchiness the band injects. This fact can’t be overvalued, for were the songs’ crucial messages conveyed amid pure, heavy-handed clatter, they wouldn’t be able to so thoroughly worm their way into your ears, find a place to stay, and compel you to revisit them. Similar to the way Cherry Glazerr merges noise and pop, they thematically marry the personal with the social, at times making it difficult to discern which camp each song fits into.
Creevy, drummer Tabor Allen, and bassist Devin O’Brien’s instrumental interplay is fluid and tight, carried by a slickly flowing groove that serves as the ten songs’ connective tissue. By turns moody and menacing, the trio’s melodies rise to the fore amid a deluge of heaviness. With first track “Ohio”, the album opens with a classic bait-and-switch. What initially seems like bedroom pop with Creevy humming over some lo-fi strumming, it abruptly switches gears and crashes into a heavy swirl. O’Brien’s bass is tuned to a hypnotic level contrasting nicely with Creevy’s eerie vocals floating above. “Just take me away,” she coos, the first of the album’s borderline anthemic mantras. It’s a template the band uses frequently, vacillating between hovering adrift and plummeting to a rocky terrain.
Built around understated percussion and Creevy’s high-end vocals in the verses, “Daddi” is an easy standout, not least because it’s as unnerving subject-wise as it is captivating musically. Quiet verses of a narrator meekly asking permission from a domineering father figure give way to a blistering refrain where she casts off her shackles. Whether its narrative is meant in an incestuous manner or as a metaphoric lambasting of the patriarchy, the recurrent line of “Who should I fuck, Daddi? / Is it you?” is inherently skin-crawly, which is certainly the point in either interpretation.
Similarly, the driving surge of “Wasted Nun” finds Creevy assessing the way women are often viewed through the lens of our culture and the value men tend to apply to them. “I’m a wasted girl / I’m wasted nun / And I don’t have fun,” she belts amid unrelenting drums, satirically addressing the misogynist’s view that women serve roles in his shadow. Then, with the mesmerizing “That’s Not My Real Life”, Creevy takes it further to a near meta-level, spotlighting the very notion that she as an artist is expected to fit a role from the industry as a feminist mouthpiece: “The suits, they don’t want me to go / They just want me to bear it for all the women,” she sings, amid some dizzying guitar work from guest Delicate Steve.
The next two songs centering the record, “Self Explained” and “Isolation”, offer a one-two respite, being down-tempo and built on subtle textures than scorched-earth assaults. Both are also linked by their shared subject matter as they find the narrator zeroing in on her psychology of defense and withdrawing, the former featuring a guitar with a glowing searchlight span adding to its lonely vibe, while the latter builds to a roiling din. “Juicy Socks” has a tone of seduction, the bass line watery and luring you into an undertow. Suitably, the lyrics make use of swimming and being unable to breathe. It both throbs and shuffles, giving a danceable rhythm, Creevy’s vocals at their most bewitching. The song also hearkens back to “Ohio”, with its repetitive “Take me with you” in the outro.
It’s in the final two cuts that the furor the album has teased finally erupts. With thunderous “Stupid Fish”, Creevy lacerates herself and an object of scorn with equal vitriol. She sets up the refrain of “I see myself in you…” before capitalizing on it in the tail-end lacerated howl of “I see myself in you, and that’s why I fuckin’ hate you!” delivering the record’s most shattering moment. Closer “Distressor” is a palate cleanser and apt conclusion, distilling all that came before it in a three-and-a-half-minute nugget. “So I can just be,” Creevy intones as the swell builds around her, after again going meta with a line about wanting to “drown in my own noise”. When it abruptly ends, both the song and the album leave the listener a bit shocked that it’s all over while urgently readying to start it all over.
Cherry Glazerr is a band about making opposites come together, of making the poles not seem so far apart to begin with. Stuffed & Ready is their finest accomplishment yet of such a daunting endeavor. And with its personal perspectives on the effects of the current cultural zeitgeist, it is not simply a great rock record, but an important document in the early days of 2019.