Outrageous Cherry – Universal Malcontents

Outrageous Cherry – Universal Malcontents

Outrageous Cherry – Universal Malcontents

Universal Malcontents refreshes late 1960’s and early 70’s bubblegum and power pop. More traditional and rootsy than other pop rock revitalizers like The New Pornographers or, from earlier days, The Cars, Outrageous Cherry fits the current indie scene well, sporting strong vocal harmonies, abundant pop hooks, and solid rhythm guitars. The band has practice and pedigree—some members have been jamming out catchy pop for 3 decades now. Outrageous Cherry’s core formed in Detroit 16 years ago, and Universal Malcontents is their 9th release.

Pop influences saturate the album, which mixes different moods, sounds, and tempos, usually keeping song lengths modest. The tones and musicianship are nearly flawless, even when the mix isn’t so hot. Universal Malcontents is full of sweet spots. “The Song Belongs to Everyone” is an early favorite. The lyrics offer wry comments on the music industry: “The song belongs to everyone, but I want my 50% for time spent”. Front man Matthew Smith delivers an unaffected, although occasionally dispirited vocal through all the catchy turns and head nodding rhythms. The next track, “I Wouldn’t Treat My Enemies the Way You Treat Yourself”, is 2 and half minutes of upbeat, fluid pop chord progressions that meld seamlessly with the backing and lead vocals. Fuzzy, rough guitars splatter the simple, understated beat.

Those highlights are only outdone by the album’s 2 closing numbers, “Outsider” and “Memory”. “Outsider”, an 8 minute back yard jam with a heavy dose of psychedelics, exudes relaxation. There’s so much to like: the layered vocals; the acoustic guitar rhythm and fuzzed out lead; the ambling bass line bouncing along. The strumming and overall movement of the song lend it an infectious, classic sound. This lengthy track is divided by a manageable string of acoustic and psychedelic electric guitar solos that make this one of the very few 8 minute songs that stay interesting.

The muffled rhythms and tambourine on “Memory” kick off this driving pop song which, at under 2 and a half minutes, makes a great follow-up to “Outsider”. “Memory” is a simple song that marches ahead and never looks back. It also closes the album with some of the best lyrics: “I know you much better than ever before, but you don’t want to hear it / You’ve been keeping secrets, try to ignore and hope no one gets near your / Memories, like a horror movie, cheap soap opera, broken down TV / Filling your eyes as the future whispers where to go when nothing much glitters anymore / And I’ve seen you there smiling, and you just can’t hide it, baby / Your memories won’t make you wise, your memory is a thin disguise”.

Universal Malcontents only misfires on tracks 3, “It’s Not Rock N’ Roll (And I don’t Like It)”, and 8, “Get Out While You Can”. These songs never really get off the ground and sound too benign at moments when the album could have used a little more edge. These are hasty treatments that probably should have been cut.

Outrageous Cherry is in well worn territory, so what value do they add to our musical catalog? Not a lot, really, but that doesn’t mean Universal Malcontents isn’t an excellent pop album. The band does what they do very well, so give it a listen, especially is you prefer the sounds of 60’s and 70’s era pop rock.

Alive Records