If you’ve decided to follow Drew Beskin’s music, it can sometimes feel like he’s trying to be your nemesis, or at least that he’s trying to make you lose his trail. Over the last seven years or so, he’s offered us intriguing bands like District Attorneys, Party Dolls, and PURSES. Of those, only the District Attorneys lasted more than one album, despite each project offering increasingly nuanced takes on Beskin’s version of indie pop.
Musically, Beskin seems to be a restless spirit who just happens to live in a town (Athens, Georgia) full of top-notch musicians to play with. So he’s always had willing and able accomplices — from bands like Modern Skirts, Tedo Stone, Crooked Fingers, and more — for whatever he’s felt like tackling.
This time around, it’s his first proper solo record with a somewhat smaller circle of collaborators in David Barbe, guitarist/bassist Phillip Brantley, and drummer Jeremy Wheatley (with Wild Nothing’s Nate Goodman guesting on guitar on “Dwarf Antique”). Longtime Beskin listeners will recognize his style immediately in his nods from everything to ’50s doo-wop to ’80s jangle to current indie sounds. Perhaps to underscore the album’s place in the Beskin continuum, Cha-Ching Machine starts off in mid-“woo-ooh”, without any buildup or prelude, followed by a classic stab of guitar.
From there, it’s exactly the sort of thing you expect and hope for from Beskin. “Love Trauma” rolls in on a churning guitar rhythm, its vocals punctuated by descending and tense “la la la la la la la”s. “English Face” possesses a vintage bounce reminiscent of numerous Athens bands but also occupies uptempo Cure territory. “Blue Room” drifts in a ’50s-like haze from dreamy guitar chime to dreamy guitar chime. “Hold Me Down” balances needly guitar lines with a crunchy riff and strong harmonies to become an album highlight. The shimmery guitars of “Dwarf Antique” could fit right into a Church album. By the time you get to the gentle sentiments of album closer “Save Your Thoughts”, you’ve heard plenty of examples of Beskin’s ability to seamless blend influences and sounds into a cohesive whole. In fact, Cha-Ching Machine boasts a remarkable consistency of sound and artistic vision, even for Beskin, who’s always shown a remarkable sense of control over what he wants to do.
When the District Attorneys disbanded, fans of the band rightfully mourned what they felt was the loss of yet another promising band. However, Beskin and other members of the band have been remarkably productive, taking part in Athens’s traditionally strong (if currently underrated) musical scene. Beskin, in particular, seems to thrive on the city’s energy. Will this be his only solo record? Will he, at this point, adopt an alias or form another band? Who knows, but at this point, Beskin’s revealed himself for what he is no matter what the vehicle for his songs may be: a talented songwriter with a knack for catchy songs that feel lived-in and comfortable even when they first meet your ears. That’s no small feat.