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Cheshires – Cheshires (Cheshires)

Cheshires - Cheshires
4 February 2017

Birmingham, AL’s Remy Zero released three major label LPs – 1996’s Remy Zero and 1998’s Villa Elaine, both on Geffen, and 2001’s The Golden Hum, on Elektra – during their original 14-year run, before disbanding in 2003 (1993’s completed-but-never-released Chloroform Days, intended to be their debut, was shelved after a change in the leadership at Capitol, their first label; however, then-labelmates Radiohead still invited them to open 1995’s US tour for The Bends after hearing and liking their early demos). This new trio comprises two original Remy Zero members: guitarist, keyboardist, and occasional lead singer Shelby Tate (AKA Remy Zero, his legal name since 1990) and drummer Louis Schefano (who officially left the band prior to their 1996 debut, though he still drummed on half of it; he later joined Maria Taylor’s and Orenda Fink’s excellent pre-Azure Ray, Birmingham-based outfit Little Red Rocket, playing and writing on their first LP, 1997’s Who Did You Pay). The band is rounded out by RZ’s touring guitarist and drummer Leslie Van Trease. To continue the RZ connections, Cheshires was produced by Amiel Morris, the Capitol A&R man who helped get the group signed, and features a “special guest appearance” – backing vocals, I’m guessing – by RZ’s lead singer/guitarist (and Shelby’s brother) Cinjun Tate on the song “Tell Her Everything.”

On Cheshires, all three members play guitar, while Schefano and Van Trease split the drumming duties almost evenly; Tate sings lead on nine of the LP’s 12 songs. (Two other guest musicians, multi-instrumentalist Jason Soda and bassist/pianist Mark Lane, also contribute.) Given their Remy Zero pedigrees, they predictably preserve that band’s penchant for brawny alterna-rock, while ditching its recurring Radiohead/U2-isms. Two rousing power-pop openers, “Drugz-I Love This Feeling” and “You’ve Turned (To Gold),” along with the plodding, post-punk pounder “Snakes” and bracing, Britpop-brushed basher “Hollow Head,” showcase their strength. But a lavish lighter side brings balance, on Bowie/Badfinger-esque ballads “I Failed” and “Kry-War Out There,” and three Schefano-written/sung winners, notably the Nada Surf-shaded “Tell Her Everything” and one of a few pre-RZ home recordings pulled from the vault for this album, the Teenage Fanclub-tinted “Watchtower.” (