Cherry Glazerr // Haxel Princess
Recommended Track: Haxel Princess
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Haxel Princess may have the most off-putting cover art of 2014. The pimply visage of a flower bedecked teenaged boy chowing down on a soft taco is so off-putting, in fact, that the LP comes affixed with a large sticker spelling out the band’s name in bubbly font replete with hearts to ostensibly counteract the snap judgements of anyone browsing the bins for the latest release from L.A.’s favorite girl band. This mildly offends me because, for all their hype and cuteness and youth (two of the band members are still in high school as of this writing), Cherry Glazerr isn’t a nice band or a sweet band, which a single listen to Haxel Princess should make plain. Actually, you don’t even need to listen. One must only turn the LP over to see the sullen faces of Cherry Glazerr glaring out at you to comprehend the dichotomy at play in the melodically tuneful yet emotionally dissonant Haxel Princess.
At its best, Haxel Princess is full of these sorts of contradictions: angry with the nice, the rough with the smooch. It’s a restless record, jumping around in form and tone with all the nebulous inconsistency of an adolescent mood swing. Despite songs about grilled cheese and bloody band-aids and moshing teens, this sugary lollipop is laced with arsenic, and errant suckers are advised to be wary. Cherry Glazerr can switch from sweet to sour almost without warning. They start out their record mewling “My sugar baby/you taste so sweet,” but things turn dark by the second verse: “Don’t tease me, I’ll shove you on the ground.”
Even on the cutesiest of songs, there’s teeth to spare. To wit: “If you want a bite/go fly a kite” from “Grilled Cheese”, the one food-related song leftover from Cherry Glazerr’s debut tape Papa Cremp, much of which is recycled here. So if there’s anything to know about Cherry Glazerr it’s that while they seem content to wear the mantle of both Urban Outfitters and NPR-approved band of the month, don’t push them—they are not okay.
Shining most brightly on Haxel Princess are the maturing songwriting talents of Clementine Creevy, which are both strong and sharply intelligent. Much of their strength is due to the fact that they’re, well, kinda weird. There’s plenty of ye olde garage punk and bubblegum tropes all over Haxel Princess, but they’re used in an effectively unconventional way. “Teenage Girl”, the band’s most indelible musical calling card, is actually a very odd song, abruptly changing time signatures and featuring a wonky bridge that wouldn’t be out of place on early Helium records. There’s also the fact that Creevy possesses a distinctive voice that might’ve sung arias but instead is put to use for rock and roll, another one of those contrasts between tough and smooth that gives Cherry Glazerr an individuality unmatched by other L.A. bands playing similar music.
What makes Haxel Princess succeed is not that it’s a perfect record–the track listing is schizo and doesn’t flow as well as it might, many of the songs are slight and it’s altogether rather short–but that it shows a very clear sense of growth and a thoroughly individual point of view, if not a definitive sense of purpose. The strongest songs here plumb deep wells of anger and insecurity, as in the anxiety inducing “White is Not My Color this Evening” (“I might act super tough/ but it’s really not enough”) and the distinctly angry wails of the title track: “There’s gum in your hair/ They all stop and stare as you shake your fist in rage…Is this a fair share or an unrealistic blame game?” Then, like much on this record, the song turns introspective: “It’s all out of fear/ I know it’s all out of fear.” That both “Haxel Princess” and “White is Not My Color This Evening” are also Creevy’s newest songs is probably not coincidence.
Even the record’s low points would be tiny masterpieces if made by almost any other band of Cherry Glazerr’s age and experience-level. A boring lyric like “I want to see your sweaty face kids/I want to see you jump on stage” is not so terrible in and of itself, but weak tea indeed when the rest of Haxel Princess is pitched so far beyond the simplistic “forever teenage” rock and roll fantasy peddled by the band’s own label. With sharp words and sharper riffs, coupled with Joel Jerome’s rich but dirty production ala Veruca Salt (Minty Fresh era), Haxel Princess plays less like a glittery punk rock dream come true but more like a voyeuristic peep into the wonderful and frightening world of the teenage girl.