by David Anthony (@DBAnthony)
By now, Cende’s origin story is well documented. The residents of the Brooklyn house that came to be known as David Blaine’s The Steakhouse used their shared love of The Marked Men as the launchpad for a new band. Though originally called Downies, they changed their name to an incredibly specific Descendents reference and released an EP that was worshipping at the feet of Mark Ryan and Jeff Burke. But on their debut full-length, Cende’s resemblance to The Marked Men is more muted. Really, the only song that feels like it could have landed on Cende’s first EP is “Out of City,” a 50-second, instrumental barn burner.
It’s not so much that Cende completely changed their sound, they merely found ways to expand beyond their initial influences. The songwriting pair of Cameron Wisch and Dave Medina keep the band’s jittery approach in tact, but they slow the pace, working more in delayed releases than instant gratification. “Bed” sees the guitars coated in delay, sounding like a dream-pop band instead of the punchy punk band it had been. Yet there are still flashes of the excitable unit Cende once was. Greg Rutkin’s drumming on “Bed” lends the song a bit of bombast, as he plays it as if it were a nervy punk song.
Moments like these are what make #1 Hit Single so engaging. It’s an album that is capable of progressing the band’s sound without removing the things that made Cende so exciting in the first place. A song like “What I Want” sees the band joined by Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos, crafting a track that feels like an indie-rock ballad that extends itself to nearly five-minutes—the longest track in Cende’s canon. But it’s the back half, where the band appears to be jamming on it and exploring the track’s outermost limits, that serves as a microcosm of what #1 Hit Single achieves in full. Cende is a band that was formed without expectations, or even that much of a roadmap. And #1 Hit Single succeeds because it sounds like a handful of friends getting together and playing music, letting the songs take them wherever they may.