Album Review: Cheesy Snacks’ “Doodles and Deep Fried Bangers”
ALBANY – On Nov. 11, Sam Walczyk, going under the moniker of Cheesy Snacks, released his sophomore album, Doodles and Deep Fried Bangers. If album names are created to give insight into the type of feeling, or general gist to gather from record, this one certainly fits the bill. Colliding genres of old and new, Walczyk has crafted a body of work that is extremely impressive, so much so that at certain points it’s hard to define what type of music one is hearing. Featuring a technically proficient band, a keen sense of songwriting, and arrangement, this record could very easily be put on repeat.
Interestingly, electronic drums begin the album (“Intro”), as we hear an almost carnival-like announcement scream in the background that introduces the record. Synths enter but soon fade out as the announcement ends. While it may not tip the hand of what is to come, the next track surely does.
In “Downwinders,” a high-pitched count-in starts the song, followed by wonderfully distorted guitars, synth, bass, and drums; everything is played tightly with one another. The vocal part is a combination of singing and sing-talking, weaving in and out of a melody that serves the song well. Part of the synth sounds almost like it belongs in a circus, and it’s this eccentricity that draws the ear further in. Near the end, the vocals recede to the back, as the instrumentation – mainly the synth – soar in volume.
With “Fancy Business Degree,” listeners are greeted to this song via the line, “Let’s see what that fancy business degree of yours is worth, as an overdriven guitar line quickly modulates into a higher key, before the song abruptly ends. An effective interlude, it immediately leads into “Cannonball.” Even more overdriven guitar, as well as the aforementioned circus-y synth are showcased here. What’s different, however, is the vocal part. On this track, the vocals sit amazingly well in the mix, and blend well with one another; it sounds like the melody is doubled an octave up. Near the end of this tune, the synth degrades into a quickly-played arpeggio, and then we hear a gripping guitar interlude that leads us out. There’re terrific riffs on this song – and the whole album.
Due to the sheer volume of new music created every day, it’s imperative – now more than ever – for artists to create something unique in order to gain traction and attention. Walczyk really rises to that challenge, especially with the next track, “Bushweed.” What makes this song blast out and demand attention is the presence of two drummers. Even for folks that may not have a trained ear, it’ll be fairly apparent based on how it is arranged and mixed that two percussion parts are being played. The interplay between the two drummers is astounding. Sitting above this bedrock is a cleanly-played guitar part, as well as a nicely delivered vocal. Throughout the entire piece, we hear a bass part supporting everything quite nicely. As the song approaches the end, a warbling, tremolo-effected synth enters into the instrumentation before a final chorus.
“Whack-A-Mole,” track six, beings with some compelling electronic drum sounds, followed by a hazy and vaguely distorted vocal part. The syncopated feel amongst instruments, namely the keys and drums, create a great groove. By taking these tightly mapped out parts and pitting them against the fairly straightforward vocal part, a cool effect is created. After a chorus near the end, the song degrades into an indecipherable spoken-word part, before a synth part concludes the track. This peculiar feeling created by the synth continues into the next song.
On “Cheap Temporary Tat,” a synth mimicking the sounds of early arcade games is first heard, followed by a captivating guitar part. Soon, the whole band joins in, and weirdly enough – for this listener – the snare tone is one of the things that really sticks out: the sound is killer. The lyrics, songwriting, and arrangement on this one really remind me of something that the B-52’s would write. Let the weirdness roll on as we continue through the album!
“Gib,” featuring one of the weirdest intros I’ve ever heard, starts with a howling a cappella version of Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me,” before proceeding into a rollicking tune. Fairly straightforward in this tune’s arrangement, it moves along at a nice pace. I really enjoy how two different vocal parts are hard-panned, making them easily distinguishable. Another interesting facet of this tune is how there are spoken words in the background that introduce the next line of the song’s lyrics. The gang vocals that close this song out are extremely fun. Hell, the whole thing is a damned blast!
Track nine, “Solid State,” has an almost instant vibe that is created: an indie-rock banger, complete with riffs, tight drums, and an undeniable groove. The vocals are almost dreamily sung, reminding this listener of some of Dr. Dog’s work. Concluding the song, listeners bear witness to a nice instrumental that explores the sonic space, but never gets too “lost in the weeds,” so-to-speak. And, Walczyk seamlessly shifts into the next track, “Shitty Ink,” continuing this trend of riff-y goodness. A thrumming synth builds up into a riff performed on bass and guitar. Lockstep with these two instruments are the drums. Time after time, Walczyk demonstrates his ability to write a damn fine song centering around compelling riffs. Halfway through, a half-time feel comes into play, which greatly changes up the feel. It’s so unexpected, and fantastically executed. Then, just as unexpected, the song returns to the original feel for one last chorus before the song ends.
Changing things up a bit is “Loud Sound,” track eleven. A lone guitar begins this track, before being joined by the full-band instrumentation and a vocal part. When considering the vocal part, it sounds like it may have been inspired by certain pop bands of the 1960’s. The reverb-soaked guitars really make this piece easy to listen to, and it ends seemingly as soon as it begins as a low-pitched synth part fades into nothingness.
Entering the last quarter of the album with “Limbo,” I really like the guitar part on this track: it sounds like drops of water pinging off a pane of glass with its clarity, and the chorus-effect on the instrument really brings it home. On top of this, the vocal part mimics much of what the guitar part is playing. But with all that said, and each track considered, the following song is a monster of a tune.
“Hollow Colo,” has so much about it that deserves to be mentioned. The presence of two drummers is really exemplified on this track. It’s hard to pin down this track exactly, but one thing is clear: it’s goddamned terrific. All the songs on this record are great, and for their own reasons, but this one stands above the rest. Between the proficiency on the hi-hat of the drums, the variety of rhythmic statements across the guitar and vocal parts, and how everything stays so well in time with one another, this is just a great piece. The way the vocal part is manipulated with compression and overdrive also adds to its allure. I could listen to this track a hundred times and probably find something new about it every time.
Arriving at the end of the record, listeners are greeted to “Outro.” The tune screams retro throughout the piece. On top of an electronic drum part, we hear a synth part that borders on goofy, in what I would call a very tongue-in-cheek performance. A piece that may make you go, “What the hell?” this is a quirky, and interesting way to end the album, as it almost sounds like there’s more to follow. Just as unique as a ton of the sounds across the record are, so too is its end.
An astonishing record through-and-through, Doodles and Deep Fried Bangers lives up to its name. Creating a sound that evokes “What the hell am I listening to?” with “Where can I find more of this?” Walczyk has made a record where the roads of musical ingenuity and curiosity meet. Sure to make a few scratch their head, I’d argue this record needs to be listened to several times before one can really wrap their head around it. I know I definitely don’t get it yet, but I do know I love it, and I can’t wait to listen again. Check it out for yourself here.