Dan Vapid & The Cheats – Escape Velocity

  • Peter Hough posted
  • Reviews

Dan Vapid and the Cheats

Escape - Eccentric Pop Records

If you like succinct reviews, read the next sentence and then go on with your business. This is a sublime album and you really should buy it. If you’re interested in why we consider this to be the case, read on.

In The CheatsDan has assembled a band from the fragments of previous outfits he has been associated with (Screeching Weasel, The Riverdales, The Methadones, Noise By Numbers, The Vindictives, Sludgeworth and The Bomb). This not only gives a clue about Dan‘s productivity but also indicates that he’s amongst friends in creating his vision. This vision, as realised in Escape Velocity, is to nothing less than to capture singular aspects of the human condition and express them as flawlessly crafted power-pop songs.

While the themes are universal, this is a quintessentially American album, with narrative threads deeply rooted in a recognisable lived experience. Lead single Runaway Jane is a perfect example of Dan‘s ability to take an imagined scenario and bring it to life as a story replete with fine brush strokes. To complement the range of themes, this album deploys a different musical landscapes – from the driving poperpop of Guilt and Relief to the gently breezy and melancholic Midnight Blue – that coalesce into a scenes from one coherent film peopled with recognisable characters and scenarios. Lyrically sharp and concise in his observations, Dan offers wry observations on the bigger issues too. Technology is in particularly sharp focus in Cyber World, which is a cautionary essay on the over-use of social media, and in Robots, which presents a ‘yesterday’s future is today’ examination of the role of machines in replacing human interaction in the workplace. The latter song, with its galloping tempo and its “Robots are on the way!” refrain are reminiscent of a jolly kids’ TV show, even if the underlying lyrical message is dark and admonitory.

To unpick every song would be pointless as every moment on this album is almost perfect. Not ground-breaking or bewildering different, but finely crafted. Polished but not sickly slick and with enough grit to underline that this is real, even if its imagined. Absolutely no filler.

If I had to pick a favourite, the track played the most in reviewing this fine piece of work is Guilt and Relief. This is a song that can stand up in any company. Plaintive but upbeat, Dan captures the perfect moment when a relationship is finely poised between commitment and disintegration and you’re ambivalent about how you feel about it.

All in all, a flawless album of huge yet intimate songs constructed with love and a real sense of the personality behind them. As confident and perfect an album as you’ll have heard all year.

Escape Velocity is currently available through streaming platformsBandcamp and on CD via Eccentric Pop Records. Due to the ongoing vinyl manufacturing delays the album will be released on vinyl in the spring of 2022 alongside a cassette release via Memorable But Not Honorable Tapes.