Cheer Up, Numbnuts, the new release from BLACK FAG! (aka, Adam Meisterhans), is a great showcase for the Demon Beat’s guitarist/vocalist. In his role as resident production guru for Big Bullet Records, Meisterhans no doubt has put a lot of time into crafting sounds for other bands and has picked up a few tricks along the way. This CD plays like he’s kept the best nuggets for himself and he’s shouldering aside his bandmates to grab his overdue share of solo laurels.
There are a few gems that will entertain the casual listener. “Let’s Fall in Love” is a sardonic, yet surprisingly endearing, send-up of middle-class romance (man, I love periodicals), while “Queer Love Song” hip-checks a little Demon Beat and a touch of the Resonators. I’d say they’re ready for radio, but good luck getting a DJ to announce the artist.
But Cheer Up, Numbnuts really pays off when the listener can put it somewhere significant in the big picture of Big Bullet Records. It’s like finally getting a good look at the guy behind the guy, and that’s when you strike pay dirt. Thinking about the Demon Beat, for example, you could unravel some of the tapestry and follow the threads back to drummer Jordan Hudkins, who also records under the moniker Jude Universer, and bassist Tucker Riggleman, who is a fine singer-songwriter all on his lonesome. Now you can hear where Meisterhans comes into play. It’s like isolating three elements and then mashing them together, and then taking them apart again, just to see how it works.
The floating, gossamer guitars of “Only Dreaming” are a highlight of Cheer Up, Numbnuts. Awash in reverb and bundled layer after layer, they pace back and forth across a Leonard Cohen landscape and articulate with a better vocabulary than the lyrics themselves.
“Savage Bliss,” though, the very first track, made me go “Wow.” It pops right off the top. It’s deft and aching and incredibly graceful, almost hymnal, and it’s a leap beyond what I was expecting. Kudos, Adam.
Cheer Up, Numbnuts proves what I’ve said before (and what I’ll keep right on saying so I can at some point gloat very heartily): Adam, Tucker and Jordan are a very talented trio that inexorably are moving toward something phenomenal. I mean, each stop along the way (solo and as a band) pays off in creative spades. So inevitably when something breaks, it’s going to be big. Like, super duper B-I-G, big.
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