Cheapskate - Un Film Imaginaire

Owain Paciuszko 23/03/2010

Rating: 4/5

This soundtrack to the titular imaginary film is a finely crafted and elegant album that opens jubilantly with the Aidan Smith-like Make Me Move, a skittery, jazz car chase with 70s bass and inquisitive organs, whilst Cheapskate (who plays everything) sings as if enjoying his own private boogie at the back of a village community centre. It's vibrant and infectious enough to encourage your own personal psychedelic wig-out, and a baroque pop firecracker of a start to this beautiful record.

Instrumental If You Don't has the swagger of beat-pop's finest, it's lead guitar reminiscent of The Jam, organ jostling with brass stings that sound like a Northern version of the 60's Batman TV show. Likewise Come Back This Afternoon is a whimsical aside, all swirling organ-lines and quaint quirks. His Liverpool accent returns for Science & Love which is like an end of the pier wurlitzer version of Squeeze's Cool For Cats, every bit as cheeky and wry, and though it lacks a chorus as catchy, it's nevertheless a deliciously arch number with a fine line in similies.

There's a certain similarity in the tempo of You Know, recalling other tracks musically and lyrically, and as a result it feels a bit too much like filler when sandwiched between the other tracks that bristle and brim with ideas and inventon. Perhaps as the part of the motion picture in Cheapskate's mind it recalls certain thematic elements, but devoid of his internal projections it's a touch limp; though it bounds into an energetic bridge around the two minute mark, homaging California sunshine pop in a similar vein to Voluntary Butler Scheme. Meanwhile Little Dave has a grainy, sepia sound, flickering Super-8 images of lost weekend football kickabouts are conjured with consumate skill.

Cheapskate's care and artistry extends to the release of this debut album, which is available on a limited edition (and joy inducing) red cassette tape. Elsewhere his lovingly designed website is filled with his illustration and film treats, as well as the absolutely wonderful Cheapskate paper doll; which in other hands might smack of egotism, but here comes across as appealingly self-effacing.

Maryon Park is a wistful, ambling tune, that mingles a pessimistic delivery with a burgeoningly optimistc and romantic vibe as Cheapskate mumbles; 'Just a chance to walk you down the street/A chance to sweep you off your feet.' Instrumental The Big Decisions Are The Ones That Count picks up on these threads, tugging on them neatly with a wandering melody that billows into a rousing finale, bringing to mind Badly Drawn Boy's appealing soundtrack to About A Boy. This is followed, diversely, by Trees which has a head-nodding beat that occasionally lurches into funk, matched by rasping flute and a plinking piano. It's a pleasing last minute left-turn in direction for an album that often slumbers, albeit pleasantly, in a low gear. That's not to say that Trees is a total departure, it's definitely a fitting piece in Cheapskate's puzzle, but it's one of the album's stand-out tracks.

Closing proceedings are a brief interlude of Little Dave (Reprise), and Southerndown a melancholic instrumental with occasional flourishes of hopefulness. Acting as a fitting epilogue to the preceding record, it sends things off on a reasonably twee and quaint note; ending with the gentle lapping of a sea shore.

This is a mightily impressive record from an extremely talented individual and very much deserves an ample slice of your time, it's a rewarding and inspiring listen that narrowly clips the bar and falls short of top marks due to a few limp tracks in the mid section. Nevertheless, this thrusts Cheapskate into the spotlight of extraordinarily (multi-)talented musicians and puts pressure on what will definitely be an eagerly antiticpated sophomore release.