by Nick McGuire (@nickemcguire)
Cherry is a band that is sure to slip under many radars, but I implore you not to be one of those. It sits in its genre cleanly, carving out a place for itself among indie rock acts that experiment but don’t need to try too hard. As the label (Lame-O Records) describes, Russell Edling enlisted a few friends to write music that wasn’t inherently artful. With his previous music project, Kite Party, he noticed that the harder he worked on songs to make them artistic, the less meaningful they became for him. After a period of reassessment, he decided to start anew with some friends and write a fun record in hopes the gravity of being an “artist” would dissipate.
Now, this shouldn't be confused with an overly bouncy, poppy record. The lyrics don’t describe California sunsets or high school romance and the music consistently sounds unlike the synth-pop in high demand these days. For example, during the second chorus of “Waterfall,” Edling growls “I want to burn this place down to the ground.” His lethargic delivery suggests a shrug of nonchalance like he couldn’t care if you believe him because he knows it’s true. Musically, Dumbness drifts through many tempos and genres, flirting with field recordings, glam rock, sadboi solitude, Ben Folds piano rock, and more. It’s hard to pin down but thankfully that isn’t distracting. Cherry found a way to stay consistent without sounding the same. With Edling’s endlessly emotional without being too emotive delivery, it sounds like quintessential indie rock the first listen, but as the album grows on you it’s hard to ignore how palpable and brilliant some of the melodies are.
“Cherry,” the most repetitive track, follows two guitars playing mesmerizing similar melodies, swirling over each other. The drums lazily tag along—like a heavy knot swinging on the end of a long rope. Synths dribble in, playing creepy counterpoint. Everything speaks to the heavy slowness of melancholy. And when Edling sings, “here we go / sliding down the icy slope / but her hands move from mine in her mind all alone / to become free” you feel the slightest of pulls in the chest. It’s simple, gratifying, and hard not to feel deeply. This album won’t turn any heads soon (there’s nothing outright revolutionary in this record), but it may be the best of its category.
Take “Under the Sun,” easily one of the most infectious tracks. It starts with a hefty bass guitar that could nail your teeth to a wall before twisting out a stable, familiar guitar tone as it plays a Beach Fossils like riff. Even as the snare drum lands some sharp, well-placed hits, you wouldn’t be judgmental to expect another boring indie rock track. But that’s part of what Edling wanted: to create music that doesn’t try to be anything more than it is. With its whirring synth, the track kicks off as he sings, and with a title like “Under the Sun” the lyrics are unsurprisingly goofy, “Down at the park / kick flipping in the dark, yeah / come up and see me like you did when we were young.”
That’s the beauty of this album. As Cherry attempts to make music silly and not so artfully serious, Edling shows how overly serious we are as a culture. The first lyrics of the album are, “Everyone's dumb / go and ask anyone.” In a world where everyone is self-involved, always taking selfies and lost in their phones, Edling wants you to recognize that music can exist for its own sake and nothing more. There doesn’t have to be a higher meaning, just some friends, some fun, and a bunch of gnarly tunes.