CLICHÉ CULT – Race Against The Time / Sweet Therapy

Formed during the pandemic lockdown of 2020, Yorkshire’s Cliché Cult gradually built an online following via the release of a half dozen digital singles. The band’s mix of indie, post punk and energised jangling guitars set them out as a band to watch. In addition, the tonal shift between the Bunnymen-ish ‘Plastic World’ single in 2022 and the semi-funky ‘Veronica’ (released in March ’23) suggested they were a band who weren’t about to play things safely, or get pigeonholed.

In another slight shift, ‘Race Against The Time’ opens with a very melodic passage where the addition of shimmering guitar lines to their musical arsenal applies a gentle dream pop influence to their already broadly appealing indie rock sound. It isn’t long before the track latches onto something a touch noisier, however, and atop of a fairly solid post punk/indie guitar part, a wall of fuzz suggests someone within the band’s ranks loves a bit of shoegaze. The way this eventually contrasts with a more melodic indie backdrop sets up a number with an epic feel, but it’s not all a case of smoke and mirrors. Linking the semi-restless tune, a very natural vocal courtesy of Jimmy Sweeney – unafraid to hide a northern accent – explores a lyrical place where self guilt reigns and the metaphorical clouds of a metaphorical Monday loom, and mental health takes a fragile turn. The protagonist takes comfort in Bowie, and beneath the glumness, the music rises to a cool grandiosity that feels rather uplifting. With hints of Doves and swathes of fuzzy guitar work throughout, it’s the kind of track that could have been recorded at any point over the previous thirty years, suggesting Cliché Cult are well versed in a musical history. If you’ve found yourself attracted to any of their prior digital singles, then this is a worthy addition to their growing collection of tunes.

Retreating into more familiar territory, ‘Sweet Therapy’ works a brilliant indie rock tune where the ghosts of mid 90s Echo & The Bunnymen lurk beneath the surface. The first half of the number goes about its business in a particularly solid way when drummer Curtis Pearson and bassist Jimmy Ingham lock down a solid groove, over which guitarist Jack Clayton lays a combo of ringing sounds with an occasional howling lead. It’s all good, but it’s the climax that lifts everything into the realms of potential classic when a repeated refrain – again dealing with mental health issues – meets a very 60s beat. This really highlights a brilliant yet understated tension within the arrangement, and by cranking that a little further, a final burst of a great chorus makes the main hook sound even bigger than before. As with ‘Race Against Time’ this showcases a band with a very natural flair when it comes to arrangements, and it has a musical tightness that makes it all seem effortless.

This double release cements Cliché Cult’s place in the contemporary underground of 2023 with a pair of tunes that capture a timeless mood, yet still feel relevant. Whilst neither track is as immediately catchy as ‘Veronica’, both show how this still new band are growing in both stature and confidence. In terms of classic sounding indie fare, these recordings suggest a band that’s very much on form and ready to become leading lights within the indie rock scene. If you’re already a fan, you won’t be disappointed, and for indie rock lovers who’ve yet to join this “cult”, chances are you’ll love what you hear enough to backtrack and explore those earlier tracks. A highly recommended listen.

July 2023