Review Summary: Cheap, Fun delivers everything it promises: dance-inducing indie pop.
Another day, another download link emailed from across the pond by another indie-upstart band trying to generate some buzz and get their burgeoning careers off the ground. It’s rather more difficult than it sounds. And, true, the internet has generally been a positive force for indie bands hunting for an audience – remember where the Arctic Monkeys started out? Still though, there’s one problem – by making it so easy to stumble upon new music (Bandcamp, Soundcloud), it’s harder to get your voice heard. Everyone is doing it. Suddenly that competition to be the top unsigned act in the city is a worldwide pageant, with success measured on Youtube hits and Twitter followers rather than the number of punters at the run-down pub/bar/best friend’s basement you got a gig at. The reality is stuff falls through the cracks, rightly or wrongly. So how the hell do you break out of that sea of next-big-things? New Jersey’s Boxed Wine seem to have the right idea – sound like you’re having fun. They take their music seriously without taking themselves seriously, and Cheap, Fun is everything it promises – an easy-going slab of good-time indie pop.
The most refreshing thing about Cheap, Fun is that it sounds like a group of musicians simply enjoying what they’re doing. ‘Cannibal’ is a bouncy, angular pop single, with a playful dance riff and general upbeat tone, while ’Tearing It Up’ marries the eighties twang of groups like Aztec Camera with modern pop sensibilities. It’s a record firmly rooted in summer, bathed in sun-kissed guitars. The whole thing is refreshingly carefree, the cutesy pop of ‘Danger Eyes’ showcasing the band’s primary thematic concerns – high-school love affairs and youthful abandon. The group’s blend of angelic harmonies and stomping riffs is a pretty enticing one.
One of the nicest things about Cheap, Fun is the ease at which the group master the art of writing a great pop song without becoming a generic pop act. The bass is dirty (‘On The Run’, ‘Overboard’), the vocals are delightfully off-kilter (‘Dayglow’) and the guitars conjure nostalgic jangle-pop. It toes the line between it’s own whimsical identity and the familiarity of pop music to great success. Most of all, there’s an honesty to Boxed Wine’s music and ethos. There’s no pretense to their work: they’re out to prove that for all the important and revolutionary music out there, there’s still a place for fun – and that doesn’t mean sacrificing quirkiness or originality. Cheap, Fun servers up hook-laden, sun-kissed indie-pop, and is simply a damn good time.