Cheap Time

Fantastic Explanations (And Similar Situations)

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Discussing the Los Angeles punk rock scene, Rodney Bingenheimer once opined, "Punk is just dirty glitter," and while Jeffrey Novak's hometown of Henderson, TN is a long way from L.A., he sure seems to have taken Bingenheimer's theory to heart. Novak's band Cheap Time sound rough, snotty, and urgent on their second album, Fantastic Explanations (And Similar Situations), but the defiant shrug in this music's attitude could have come from T. Rex, Alice Cooper, or the New York Dolls, and the raunchy guitar figures, swaggering melodies, and tempos more suited to hair swinging than the pogo strongly suggests Novak's greatest influences aren't just old-school punks but older-school glam rockers. Just as this stylistic fusion worked on Hollywood Boulevard in 1978, it works now on Fantastic Explanations (And Similar Situations); Novak's songs, vocals, and guitar work carry the shambolic air of someone who isn't too worried about sanding down the rough edges, but this music marches forth with genuine authority regardless, and bassist Stephen Braren and drummer Ryan Sweeney give Novak a solid, no-nonsense framework for his shaky but passionate rock & roll. Novak's voice often suggests a North American variation on Chris Bailey's sneer from the early Saints records; "Woodland Drive" sounds like its melody was cobbled together from a couple different Ramones tunes' and it's a fair guess he'd spent a lot of time listening to the New York Dolls the morning he wrote "When Tomorrow Comes," but regardless of which snotty rock forefather Novak is channeling at any given moment, he sounds clever, committed, and just nervy enough to make his pose seem sincere. Fantastic Explanations (And Similar Situations) makes something fresh and powerful from Novak's influences, and if the ingredients to this cocktail are pretty simple to figure out, that doesn't mean it's not strong enough to knock you out.

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