It is "cheeze" with a "z," as in "Muzak."
2. The alt.country
genre--yeah, we know, whatever the hell that is--has become bloated and
fat. What happened to our punk "do-it-yourself" ethos? To our
hillbilly inheritance? We're drowning in a sea of cheeze out here, and
stenosis is a bitch.
3. To help stanch
the cheeze, we at CHEEZEBALL.NET have endeavored to articulate its constituent
elements. Producers, would-be musicians, listen up:
Gratuituous back-up singers -
Harmony is just fine. Even the occasional duet won't necessarily
wreck an album. But back-up singers? Are you kidding me?
and other superfluous tinkle -
Gongs, pots, pans, garbage cans, the kitchen sink--take a page out of
Glen Kotche's book and bang on everything. But if anyone--anyone--brings
chimes into the studio, fire the bastard.
horn sections -
'Tis a paltry few who can secure an Ornette Coleman cameo. More often,
they get some poor sap who honed his chops on 80's movie soundtracks.
It was a bad decade. A bad, bad decade.
It must be said, alt.country does the concept album better than most genres:
Being There is a gem, Southern Rock Opera is excellent,
and Post to Wire holds its own. Exceptions notwithstanding, concept
albums are typically little more than half-cooked tripe. Cut the filler,
and release the double album as an EP.
e. Drum machines
For crying in a bucket, turn off the damn Casio. Session drummers
aren't that expensive.
Children's voices are creepy; children's choruses are ridiculous.
(Questions? See Dylan's version of "They Killed Him" on Knocked
Out Loaded. Is that what you're after?)
love songs -
As Jay Farrar so succinctly put it, "Watch out for love
like ipecac." Love songs require irony and sarcasm (or at least an
unexpected turn of phrase). Use the "Hallmark" test: if the
lyrics could pass for copy on a Hallmark card, scrap the song. If you're
unable to churn out anything but mush, sit down with a stack of Old 97s
albums: "Making love with you is like/swimming in glue/and I don't
think I can do it anymore./It started six months back/When you faked that
What, did you run out of words? If you have to "sha-la-la" your
way through a chorus, you need to invest in a thesaurus. Finish the damn
song before you record it. (Or at least learn to yodel.)
Yes, alt.country has
brimstone gospel in its lineage. We at CHEEZEBALL.NET are still debating
exactly when religous content constitutes cheeze and when it does not.
It would appear that being Johnny Cash and/or singing in a minor key allows
one to beat the cheeze. Unfortunately, the Man in Black is busy vetting
all the gospel he recorded, and minor keys don't completely mask "inspirational"
lyrics. Go ahead, record "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down"--if
we think you mean it, we'll be off-put. If we think you're just kidding,
well, then Jesus is just all right.
Alt.country musicians don't seem compelled to write unicorn songs.
Please, enough with the angels already. ("Drunken Angel," by
the way, is not an angel song. It's a Blaze Foley song.)
k. Echo effects
Closet Floyd fan? Or just agog over the wonders of modern technology?
Some effects pedals should be used sparingly. And contrary to what your
arena-rock-loving producer might tell you, echoes don't improve vocals,
l. Key changes
Not all key changes are cheezy. "Nashville Sound" key changes
(new verse, new key) are cheezy.
With the exception of the the harp, we're cool with catgut. Bring on your
lutes and zithers. We even like string bands. That said, be it known that
swelling orchestral strings and their synthesized surrogates are worse
A slow bumpkin drawl does not lend gravitas to the music. It's a song,
for christ's sake--sing it.
The occasional honky-tonk glissando (clenched-fist, à la
Jerry Lee) is fine. But quit with that slick, tinkly sh*t, already.
Frankie Valli has left the building. Unless you're yodeling (or
being eviscerated) you've no business straying outside your vocal range.
sound effects -
Claps of thunder, howling dogs, squeaky hinges, and the clompity-clomp
of horses' hooves all sound fine--on an episode of The Lone Ranger.
Alas, the days of the radio western are no more. Scrap the sound collage,
Anything your grandmother might appliqué on an apron should
not be used as imagery in an alt.country song. This includes--but is not
limited to--angels, acorns, butterflies, kittens, sunflowers, stars, and
hearts. (And, yes, if you're scoring at home, this is our second interdiction
against angels. We're serious.)
Yet another verse with the same governing metaphor? Nope, it's
not clever--it's writer's block.
t. Fake accents
If you grew up in suburban Chicago, lose the hillbilly drawl.
We're not fooled. (And that goes for all you aspiring Liverpudlians, too.)
u. Hand claps
If you're not playing an instrument, keep those meathooks in your pockets. Nobody wants another John Cougar.
Errors? Omissions? Suggestions? Exceptions? Umbrage? Contact us.