Limelight: Introducing Chicago avant-garde collective Cheer-Accident

a press shot of cheer-accident
Cheer-Accident, with Thymme Jones second from right
(Image: © Vilma_Jovaisa)

Cheer-Accident’s founder Thymme Jones reckons he’s been obsessed with music from about as far back as he can remember. “I used to work myself into a frenzy listening to Zorba The Greek by Herb Alpert. I used to dance around the stool in our house when I was four years old. I was in love with the music,” recalls the drummer and multi-instrumentalist, speaking from his home in Chicago. It’s an ardour that shows no signs of cooling as the band release their 18th album and embark on a series of live dates.

Formed in 1981 and taking their name from a section of a greetings card display, Jones was joined by his old friend, guitarist Jeff Libersher, after the band’s debut album in 1986. “I started playing with Jeff after we met in college. We never really had it in mind that this was what we would do with the rest of our lives. It just turned out that way,” laughs Jones.

Despite a gap of six years between their previous record, No Ifs, Ands Or Dogs and their new album Putting Off Death, this avant-rock quartet are keen to prove they’re still in fine and feisty form. “We’re still hungry to discover new things. We don’t just want to rest on our laurels and be content with what we’ve already done.”

Their 18th release bristles with a dynamic mix of jump-cut, quirky rhythms, densely-wrought instrumental orchestration and complex arrangements coupled with uplifting melodies, lyrical and reflective songs whose subject matter ponders questions both ineffable and, as the album title implies, the inevitable. Within its mix of epically proportioned songs and short, direct salvos, it’s possible to discern fleeting glimpses of Beach Boys-like harmonies, the caustic industrial-style angularities of This Heat or Pere Ubu, and even the pastoral calm found on early Genesis occurring within their varied sonics. Jones accepts that with each recording they undertake, the group distil a rich mix of stylistic influences. “We’ve had many different phases because we’ve been playing out for three decades. For the first couple of years, we were doing rock shows with a couple of guitars, bass and drums. But it depends on who is in the band and what we feel like presenting at any given moment.”

Though Jones cites King Crimson’s Starless as one of his favourite tracks and expresses his admiration for Genesis’ Selling England By The Pound, Cheer-Accident aren’t interested in recreating the sounds and style of that era. “The 70s were definitely a starting point for us and opened some doors in terms of how we think about music. But to just imitate what they were doing and still calling it ‘progressive’ is a little dubious. Those bands weren’t calling it progressive at the time. They were just doing what made sense for them to do and they were trying to forge ahead and come up with something unique to themselves. That’s what we’re trying to do in our own way. We want to keep moving.”

Prog-file

Line-up: Jeff Libersher (guitar, trumpet, vocals, keyboards), Thymme Jones (drums, trumpet, vocals, piano, noises), Dante Kester (bass, keyboards), Amelie Morgan (keyboards, oboe, vocals)

Sounds like: A glorious, diverse mix of pop and prog filtered through the prism of restless experimentation

Current release: Putting Off Death is out now on Cuneiform

Website: www.cheer-accident.com

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