Three Michigan rockers keep things simple, make strong case Cheap Girls make great dates

Hope springs eternal, and, for similar reasons, there will always be new bands.

Most acts obey the standard distribution curve, meaning they're less than inspired, or worse. This is to the advantage of bands like Michigan's Cheap Girls, who, despite a relatively fresh minting, are well-worth watching. The Girls' second disc, last month's "My Roaring 20's," is as fine a slab of music as you're likely to find from a band you've haven't heard or read about on Pitchfork.

The group's second release, the 10-track album shakes with raging distortion and tuneful playing steeped in melancholy discontent like it were forged two decades ago. The trio's chunky, hummable blasts recall pre-grunge, alt-rock acts such as Buffalo Tom and Superchunk.

Singer/bassist Ian Graham and his brother Ben have been playing in bands together for years, ever since receiving a guitar and drums (respectively) as children. Ian and guitarist Adam Aymor decided to start a band together and brought Ben along, and the rest is history.

"It's very simple," Ian Graham said. "I wish I had a better answer."

Simple is guiding idea behind the music. They just want to rock.

"From the start, it's always been that we write simple songs on acoustic guitar," Graham said. "We wanted to be loud and we wanted to be a simple rock band."

The straightforward sound is buoyed by a thick curtain of distortion and a bed of razor-wire hooks. None of the new songs clock beyond three minutes, and the entire album's finished in under a half hour, although it reverberates a lot longer.

At the center is Graham's befuddled ache, which is more existential crisis than heartbroken longing. It's the kind of heartfelt, vaguely pissed, beneath-the-wounded-veneer kind of music that the '80s and early-'90s underground excelled at, until Kurt Cobain took it mainstream.

"My Roaring 20's" is highlighted by a pair of terrific tracks, "Ft. Lauderdale" and "My Clean Friends"  " the latter an infectiously scored paean to making it through.

"Ft. Lauderdale" is just as powerful. It rides a rocking, chiming guitar roar, sketching a waitress in the titular town who fashions herself an artist amid worries that her dreams dwarf her talent, and a similarly minded valet who longs to act. It's a poignant ode to how our desires can make us feel inadequate and fill us with doubt.

Graham playfully chafed at the suggestion his talent may trail his dreams, but quickly confessed to his battles with doubt.

"I sort of catch myself doing that too much. There's definitely some of that for sure," he said with a laugh. "I wrote a shit-ton of songs, so I feel a lot of them must be terrible."

Cheap Girls with Failures' Union perform at 10 p.m. Tuesday at Hi-Lo Club, 1221 N.W. 50th. "Chris Parker

  • or