Review By Chris Whibbs
Tough Guy Clichés
Although the absolutely lovely and inventive packaging compliments the discs’ title due to its’ stark depictions of mobsters and cops, the style of music couldn’t be farther from the titular literary devices. This music, beautifully crafted by main man S.D. Warren, reminds of the gentle pop stylings of the Clientele or similar Brit bands that ply their wares with hushed emotions and acoustic strums. Putting this on at a party may not be the best idea, but if you’re looking for something to sink your self-pitying teeth into, then you can’t go wrong here. “Racing Time” isn’t just dedicated to Elliott Smith, as Warren’s voice lovingly emulates the late man’s sing-speak along with the perfect driving pop beat. For the epic dream-like centrepiece, look to “The Assault” that allows the falsetto to soar and stimulate the introspection. Throughout Tough Guy Clichés there’s always a nagging familiarity, but it can easily be put aside. For those looking for a great slice of oozing sincerity, there probably won’t be as confident and driven statement of emotion as Bronx Cheerleader concoct here.
POPMATTERS REVIEWS TOUGH GUY CLICHES
On-line webzine juggernaut Popmatters.com chimes in...
Bronx Cheerleader - Tough Guy Clichés (Yummy Recordings)
Other than war, no milieu brings out male fallibility more than organized crime. Yet, Americans harbor a nostalgia for the relative certitude of the glory days of gangland; how else can you explain Al Capone's northwoods hideout as a tourist attraction complete with caricatured t-shirts that read, "Justice -- Chicago Style"? Cleverly, ex-Pope Factory man Scott Warren uses the push and pull between these two ideas as the loose underpinning for Tough Guy Clichés. His lyrics are smart but never cutesy or deliberately shocking. A song title like "Our Grudges Have Handles" sums up his approach pretty well. The music, played by Warren and several ex-Pope Factory and Palooka members, belies the subject matter. Mostly acoustic, gauzy, and navel-gazing, at times it's barely there; Warren's voice literally floats by. A little more lo-fi than necessary, but still devastating on tracks like "Hollywood Ending". Some of the better CD packaging you'll ever see, too.
NIAGARA'S WEEKLY ALTERNATIVE
Sitting in on a Bronx Cheerleader rehearsal on a Friday evening was pretty surreal. The walk to Yummy Recordings’ A–Frame studios was quite brisk, but as soon as I came within
striking distance of the band’s practice space, I could make out the warm sounds coming from the attic and the chill in my bones was instantly gone. As the band played, it was remarkable to be able hear all of the album’s nuances re–enacted live. The cymbal crashes, the maracas shaking, the bells jangling, the bass guitar dancing, the mandolin twinkling, the
acoustic guitar plucking, the electric guitar humming and Scott Warren’s beautiful and thoughtful vocals could all be felt and heard. There were no sounds that were struggling for
notice; it seemed as if the instruments are all old friends caught up in conversation.
“Bronx Cheerleader began around a campfire near Picton, Ontario, in the summer of 2003,”
recalls Warren, songwriter and frontman of Bronx Cheerleader. “One night [I was] around the campfire with some friends and there was an acoustic guitar kicking around. I was badgered until I picked it up and played something. I instantly realized how much I missed playing and performing, that’s how I got back into it after not picking up a guitar for almost two years. All of a sudden the songs just starting coming.”
That was the first time Warren had performed in front of an audience since his days in Pope
Factory. His original band was created in his parent’s garage in the mid–’90s in Welland.
“The band relocated to Toronto in 1995 and Sauder (Bronx’s drummer) was kicked out of
the band in 1998 for liking the Tragically Hip too much. We released an EP and a full–length
CD, got some good press and played CMJ in New York City in 1999,” explains Warren.
“Everything kind of fell apart when we hit the road for a U.S. tour in 2001. On the morning of
September 11, we were en route to NYC to play at the CMJ festival again. This showcase was
the linchpin of the tour and was to be the launch pad for our campaign of global domination. But the terrorists wouldn’t have it. In the aftermath of 9/11, the bookings dried up – no one was going out to see Canadian indie rock bands anymore. Everyone was staying at home, glued to the TV to see what kind of madness was going to unfold next. So, I guess you could say that the terrorists killed Pope Factory.”
From there, Warren sat down with Joe Lapinski and brought him some rough bedroom recordings. “He worked his magical production skills until we had something that was releaseable. Basically, Joe polished a lot of audio turds,” laughs Warren. “Joe basically
saved Tough Guy Cliches."
The album was released at the end of 2005 and has been spinning in CD players non–stop all across Canada. CBC Radio One’s Amanda Putz, named the album one of her “Best Bets” of 2005. The CD stayed in the top 30 at CFBU for nearly three months, while most of the time was spent at the top. Nationally, the album charted at #30 for the month of January on the Earshot Canadian Campus Radio Charts. Warren responds, “Nobody is more surprised about the reception the album has gotten than I am. I suppose that after years of slugging it out in the nasty world of indie rock I’ve just been conditioned to have low expectations. It’s a defense mechanism – I guess.”