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Nashville, Tennessee’s punk warlords Cheap Time soldier on, delivering their fourth studio album. Produced once again by band leader / singer / guitarist Jeffrey Novak at his home studio, Exit Smiles builds off the sound of 2012’s Wallpaper Music, employing sharper production and more expansive songwriting. Along with danceable art-rock stompers like “Kill the Light,” and “Slow Variety,” the album also includes more progressive material like “Modern Taste” and the abrasive title track that opens the album.
Taking everything up a notch is new bassist Jessica McFarland (vocalist of Heavy Cream), whose voice is the perfect counterpoint to Novak’s Bailey / Devoto punk snarl. McFarland’s tight bass playing fits right in the pocket between Novak’s overblown guitar chords and drummer Ryan Sweeney’s endless, Moon-y drum fills. Sweeney is Cheap Time’s backbone, an integral part of the band since 2010’s Fantastic Explanations. His drumming is powerful and relentless, especially on songs like “Country and City.”
Where most bands drag or burn out around their second album, Cheap Time are students of rock history. They tread in the footsteps of their ’70s heroes—like Sparks or Alice Cooper—learning from the shortcomings of previous works and continuing to develop their craft. They’ve worn out their John Cale and Peter Hammill LPs, and finally delivered the classic punk album for 2013!