This front man needs no introduction, with well-known Australian band The Living End being a part of our rich musical history for many decades. The rock-a-billy punks stood out and were part of my ‘Uni years’ back in the day, as they were for so many during the 90’s… but that’s another story. I wanted to dive into Cheney’s debut album The Storm Before The Calm with no background knowledge of its production whatsoever. I wanted a totally clear slate to hear, feel and let it all unfold without linking it in any way to previously released music. The album’s name indicates there must be a journey involved and each song title gave that assumption more clarity.
We begin with the first track, ‘Impossible Dream’, and are off to an honest start with a familiar and relatable story about the frustration of wishing for better but being held back by circumstances, clinging to the life that we see within our own minds but somehow never eventuates. Cheney’s voice is great, strong and sincere as a piano tinkers away, reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
It moves onto ‘California’, a rocking road trip ode to The Golden State, driving back to the sunny shores with the warmth of knowing what is waiting for you. It’s an uplifting song that actually makes you want to fly over, hire a convertible and just drive. It evokes imagery of when the desert meets the sea.
The next track, ‘Football Team’, very much opens up a world that I wouldn’t get to experience intimately, even though I’m a big Rugby League fan. We get an inside glimpse into the emotions of being a part of a successful sporting team, reflecting back to a win that was left suspended in time and, twenty years later, wondering why the expectations of that win haven’t progressed to where you think they should have. With a slide guitar echoing those sentiments, you are transported to ‘what could have been’.
Linking in with the previous track, ‘Corner Shop’ also embodies one of our local Australian past times. Reminiscing to a time of simplicity when ‘walking to the Corner Shop with my friends’ was a common occurrence that now seems all but lost. ‘Where have all the good times gone?’… seems to be the catch call for times gone by, especially in the last couple of years. Hearing this rings so true for our lifestyle here in Australia, the effects of capitalism slowly cutting away our treasured memories that we will never get back. This track gave me pause, as I’m sure it will other listeners. I can see it all in pictures, like I’m watching 80’s Australia on TV.
Changing gears, ‘Lost In The Darkness’ takes me into the ‘Eddie and the Cruisers’ movie soundtrack, which is, again, your Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band influenced musical genre. Bars, music, heartache – you can follow the man who is sitting and drinking, surrounded by people but a thousand miles away, lost in his own thoughts and not being able to climb out of his despair.
‘The River’ takes things up another notch. I really enjoy the pickup, mood and tempo of this racy, fast paced and urgent track. It’s a welcome change in style too, complementing the album but quite different to the rest. With an automatic lift of emotions, and being able to ‘rock out’ somewhat, this is a strong contender for being my favourite song so far.
Although full of sorrow and remorse, ‘Still Got Friday On My Mind’ is an enjoyable song that deals with the realities of personal decisions and the consequences.
There’s a lot that stands out on the next track ‘Exile’. With its intro, sharp and strong vocals, the ominous Mexican guitars which lead into a Dave Gilmour-esque electric guitar solo, it has a modern Western feel. I can envisage the California desert as it merges into the Mexican border and trouble possibly laying ahead. It’s another contender for favourite song.
With its enjoyable guitar solo, ‘2am’ is the quintessential insomniacs song about the frustration of constantly being woken by a wired brain that won’t settle. It’s another relatable scenario.
The last song, ‘Little White Pills’, is an up-tempo rock track that will make you want to kick up your heels.
With its acoustic, rock-meets-country style, this album is raw and down to earth. The rich imagery that Cheney has created through his song writing will prove to be a successful live set when this record goes on tour. There are triumphs and heartaches, adventures and scenes with twists and turns. Emotions lifting and subsiding, rising and then crashing down, The Storm Before The Calm is literally a musical wave of emotions that is a solid and thoroughly enjoyable debut solo album.
© MARINA KNEZEVIC 2022 – All Rights Reserved
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