"Tons of weird rock records have streamed out of Chicago over the past two decades, but none have blended pop smarts and avant-garde impulses as skillfully as this marvelous brainteaser of an album..." – Time Out New York

"Cheer-Accident are the quintessential Chicago post-rock band that, sadly, you may have never heard of. Too bad. They've been exploring head-scratching, creatively fucked-up time signatures and sideways guitar shenanigans for 20 years now, leaving a pronounced influence on the Windy City's art-rock scene. Their playful musical approach is a ripe aesthetic of absurdist humor." – D. Shawn Bosler, Pitchfork

Emerging from the incredibly diverse crucible of music that is Chicago, Cheer-Accident embodies and re-affirms the “promises made” by previous generations of progressive rock, post-punk, and post rock bands—the creation of a thoroughly new rock-based music. There are bands with pretty melodies, bands that rock, bands that dazzle with exalted technique, bands that make you laugh, and bands aiming to perplex even the most intrepid listener. Cheer-Accident is all those things and more, truly a band for the 21st century. Cheer-Accident wrap creativeness inside an inviting enigma of honeyed vocals, harmonious pop melody, and thorny dissonance. They have the rare ability to synthesize and juxtapose pure pop, thundering rock, and avant-garde complexity and ambiguity, intuition and intellect, sweetness and sarcasm, to create a stunning signature sound.

CHEER-ACCIDENT's official websiteCHEER-ACCIDENT's Facebook pageCHEER-ACCIDENT on Twitter


RUNE 526

When I was five years old (or maybe younger; I know I had not yet made it to kindergarten), my favorite activity was to bop around to Herb Alpert's rendition of "Zorba The Greek." You know the part of the song where everything stops, there's a brief silence, then it starts back up, slowly and quietly? Well, from there, it just builds and builds and builds in volume and intensity, the tempo making its way from slower-than-adagio to faster-than-fast high octane über-polka in the course of sixty seconds... and I would work my five-year-old self into a frenzy, racing around the ottoman in the living room, faster and faster, matching the song's energy, and finally, collapsing into ecstatic oblivion at the song's conclusion (at 4 minutes and 25 seconds).

By the time I'd reached that aforementioned age, my parents had acquired five of his albums, all of which I listened to voraciously. Herb was my guy. I was obsessed. He's the reason I started playing trumpet in 6th Grade and drumming (or, rather, cereal boxing) well before that, probably before I'd learned how to walk. When I'd entered junior high, and found myself in the school band, I'd managed to track down almost every one of those thirteen original Tijuana Brass albums that came out in the '60s. Most of these I'd found in the "easy listening" section at the record store, where I'd noticed another familiar name that would consistently pop up: Burt Bacharach. I'd become enamored with him as well, initially by learning that he had written an impressive number of songs that Herb would go on to record, but also because he had achieved ubiquity on the airwaves, via artists such as Carpenters, BJ Thomas, and (most notably and prolifically) Dionne Warwick.

Fast forward three decades later to this scenario: Phil Bonnet (our guitarist for the entirety of the '90s) and I are talking at Solid Sound (the studio in Hoffman Estates, IL where he'd become quite beloved, engineering a multitude of local bands from Chicago and its nearby suburbs), as we take a break from recording the basic tracks for "Salad Days" (along with Jeff Libersher and Dylan Posa) on Sunday, January 31st, 1999. Phil is very excited to have recently gotten his hands on the Burt Bacharach box set, and we are listening to it in the control room. As we sit there together, blissing out to the sublime strains of "Our Day Will Come," he looks over at me and says, "I never use this word, but he's a... (pause)... (sheepishly)... genius."

But Phil was not merely "our guitarist" or "our engineer" -- he was also a dear, dear friend. He and I lived together (in Streamwood, then Palatine) from the fall of 1990 to the summer of 1992, and we became very close during this time period. Sometimes eerily close. On one summer day in 1991, after we'd been living together for over half a year, I had decided to cut off all of my long hair. Phil came home that night after a lengthy studio session and, as he walked through the front door, we just looked at each other in shocked silence: he, too, had cut off all of his long hair. On another day that same summer, we tooled around Streamwood in his Suzuki Sidekick, cranking my Herb Alpert mixtape. Did that Sidekick have a sun roof, or can I still feel the sun's warmth on my face and arms because that moment unlocked one of my earliest and fondest memories: riding in my mom's Galaxy 500 convertible, listening to "Whipped Cream & Other Delights" on her car's 8-track player?

How perfect was it that Phil and I were in a dissonant/abrasive/aggressive rock band together, and yet our strongest convergence was in the area of "easy listening?" Indeed all four members of this '90s incarnation of CHEER-ACCIDENT shared a deep passion for this music, and there were murmurs of dedicating an entire album to this genre, starting in the mid-'90s. These murmurs grew louder and more insistent (accompanied by serious demos being recorded by all involved), and by early '99, there were specific plans being made to record this selection of songs... just in time for Phil's sudden and devastating death on Tuesday, Februrary 2nd, 1999.

And now, one year after Burt's death and 25 years after Phil's death, we have unlocked this treasure chest of heartfelt songs (three of which have the latter's stamp on them), and Cuneiform Records has taken on the noble task of availing them to the public. Pandemically recorded by one Steve Albini (whose name is virtually synonymous with "easy listening") at his charmed studio, Electrical Audio in Chicago, this is surely our most severe example of "delayed gratification" to date. I know that "severity" and "easy listening" do not exactly go hand in hand, but we always have had a rather BachAssarach way of doing things.

Thank You For (Easily) Listening.

-- Thymme Jones / CHEER-ACCIDENT

Vacate press release

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RUNE 476

“We’ve made it to XX!! Yes, it took longer than it took Chicago to make it here, but that didn’t prevent us from calling it “Chicago XX,” did it? It’s a potent little sucker, too. Maybe we shouldn’t still be rocking out this much at “our advanced age,” but... well, we are! Harmony and dissonance, love and hate, oboes and drums... they all help to form this delicious and strange bedfellowship. Maybe this is going out on a limb, but it’s possible that (in addition to the bevy of instruments on this album) this just might be our most gripping full-length to date on the vocal front: Carmen Armillas and Greg Beemster and Thymme all turn in some poignant and varied performances. And let’s face it, Shelby Donnelly’s artwork is something you’re gonna want to stare at...” – Cheer-Ax

“Cheer-Accident have just released their 20th album, Chicago XX, whose cover pays terry-cloth tribute to the band once known as the Chicago Transit Authority. In terrible times, it’s important to treasure reassuring things, including brilliant but underappreciated local musicians who just don’t give up. Founded in 1981, this constantly mutating nexus of straight-faced but smart-assed prog rock and distressing multimedia weirdness first played a live show in 1987.

Over the decades Cheer-Accident have perfected an organic dadaism that makes them kin to the Residents, say, or Henry Cow, or Canada’s Nihilist Spasm Band. They’ve always brought heart to their playfulness, and their free-range eclecticism is warm and welcoming—they’re a highly intelligent band but never spill over into off- putting cerebral iciness. This might be because of their flair for hook and melody, or because of their fundamental puckishness, which is never mean-spirited—though it can certainly be confusing or exasperating. At one late-90s Lounge Ax show, the band used a prerecorded tape to segue from their song “Small World” into a hellish multitracked version of the Disney tune “It’s a Small World (After All),” and during its interminable playback they simply left the stage and took seats at the bar. Another concert at the same venue ended with Jones surprising the night’s guest musicians (and the crowd) by mock-berating everyone with a ten-minute Buddy Rich rant he’d memorized. Cheer-Accident’s bassist for much of the 90s, former Flying Luttenbacher Dylan Posa, once spent at least that long during a Morseland set imitating a lawn sprinkler.

These bizarre, self-sabotaging jokes work, though, because Cheer-Accident back them up with skillful musical assemblage and careful attention to detail—not too many artists can make a chant of “life rings hollow” (on the Chicago XX song of the same name) sound so inspiring.

Cheer-Accident co-founder Thymme Jones, recollects the band’s beginnings as a sort of stream-of- consciousness recording project. Originally a loose collective of as many as nine players in Jones’s orbit, by 1987 Cheer-Accident had become a stable power trio, with guitarist Jeff Libersher (still in the band) and bassist Chris Block (long gone). Their public debut was at the defunct Igloo (which Jones says was actually quite hot) and featured a ten-minute version of “Filet of Nod,” which ends with a locked groove on their 1991 LP Dumb Ask—the written-out material lasts less than three minutes, but onstage Cheer-Accident play the locked groove for as long as they bloody well feel like. Rumors have propagated of a 24-hour version, but Jones insists that the longest they’ve actually gone on with it is eight hours outdoors and seven indoors.

Originally a noisy postpunk outfit with a bit of skronk (elements they’re perfectly capable of drawing on to this day), in the mid-90s Cheer-Accident turned to a much more melodic and mellifluous sound, producing some of the most strangely beautiful music—or just straight-up most beautiful music—to ever come out of the Chicago indie scene. The sudden death in 1999 of guitarist Phil Bonnet, who’d been playing with the band for nine years and a friend of theirs for even longer, nearly convinced them to hang it up. But their 2002 comeback, Introducing Lemon, with guitarist Jamie Fillmore joining the fold, was their strongest yet, even downright life- affirming. Guitarist and drummer Todd Rittmann and bassist Alex Perkolup (ex-Flying Luttenbachers) came aboard as Fillmore left, and lineup changes continued apace even during the gap in new Cheer-Accident albums that lasted from 2011 till 2017. Those years of gestation have paid off in the one-two-three punch of 2017’s Putting Off Death, 2018’s Fades, and the new Chicago XX—all masterpieces. Maturity has its benefits.

The personnel on the recording include many past and present members, including singer Carmen Armillas, bassist Dante Kester, and multi-instrumentalist Amelie Morgan. The touring lineup consists of Jones, Libersher, and a three-piece horn section drawn from the band’s large pool of friends and collaborators: saxophonists Ross Feller and Cory Bengtsen and trombonist Mike Hagedorn.

Jones tells me he was delighted by a comment from a fan at a recent show who insisted that the band combine Chicago with the Art Ensemble of Chicago. It’s as accurate an elevator pitch as anything I could come up with, honestly, except that Cheer-Accident are far funnier than either.” – Monica Kendrick / Chicago Reader

Chicago XX press release

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RUNE 446

Bands, like the human beings that comprise them, are mortal. Against all the odds, in the face of an unstable record industry that never embraced their restless experimentation, Chicago avant-rock pioneers CHEER-ACCIDENT have survived to release their 18th album, Putting Off Death. More than 30 years after first joining forces, fellow eclecticists Thymme Jones and Jeff Libersher have faced down the inevitable and returned with a new set of songs that’s as unpredictable, exploratory and viscerally compelling as anything they’ve released over the course of their erratically evolving career. The music is action packed and filled to the brim with living, breathing humanity. The band’s continuing hunger bleeds through in the music’s immediacy. As Jones says, "There's still something to prove."

The band’s third release for Cuneiform follows in the elusive, meandering trajectory of their earlier work, which is always instantly identifiable if never quite definable. They’ve managed to conjure a unique collage of intricate prog, lush pop and experimental noise, drawing on hugely disparate influences without ever settling on a sound that could be definitively traced to any of them in isolation. Meaning that they always did and continue to, sound like no one but themselves.

Following their previous release, No Ifs, Ands or Dogs, after a gap of six years, Putting Off Death is on the one hand simply an assertion that "We’re still here" from a band that never expected to be. CHEER-ACCIDENT continues to make vital, adventurous music after three decades despite - or maybe because of? - a revolving cast of collaborators (more than a dozen musicians are featured), and a notoriety in uneasy balance with an accompanying obscurity.

In the unusually long span since the band’s last release, the music industry has undergone seismic changes, which led CHEER-ACCIDENT to question whether traditional albums were still the ideal platform for their music. In the meantime, they continued to write music until the seven songs that make up Putting Off Death revealed their thematic and musical coherence and virtually demanded to become an album.

Listening to the singular blend of invention and accessibility, challenge and chemistry throughout the new album, another meaning for Putting Off Death emerges. Complacency can be its own kind of death, one that CHEER-ACCIDENT defiantly laughs in the face of. Jones and Libersher have adhered to the forward-thinking definition of the term "progressive" while subverting and diverting from the genre with cleverness and abandon.

"Back when [progressive rock] first excited me," Jones says, "there were a lot of questions being asked, and I like music that asks questions rather than just feeding people predigested styles like it was created in a lab. Even if something is musically complex, I need there to be a lot of humanity in it."

As Jones suggested, these are songs that ask questions, ones that can only be answered in the mindspace of the receiver. Putting Off Death, he says, is "not a complete thought. It's a question awaiting an answer. It requires an audience with which to interface. Others' ears and minds are required to complete the story."

Putting Off Death press release

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RUNE 326

No Ifs, Ands, or Dogs, Cheer-Accident’s 17th album is a kaleidoscopic, inclusive trip into a musical madhouse that you’ll want to stay lost within. The core membership of the ever-shifting organism that is Cheer-Accident remains Thymme Jones (vocals, keyboards, brass, synth, drums); Carmen Armillas (vocals), Alex Perkolup (vocals, bass, guitar), D. Bayne (keyboards, trombone) and Jeff Libersher (vocals, guitar, keys, trumpet, bass), with able assists from Andrea Faught (vocals, keys), and Lise Gilly (saxophones), among others. Everyone makes significant and important and wonderful contributions, but since the vocalist is always the focal point in bands, I want to mention that Carmen is a real find, with a powerfully emotive voice; she really lends a huge presence to this album, working beautifully with Thymme and Jeff and the rest.

The songs on No Ifs… run the gamut of everything that makes Cheer-Accident an exceptional band: prickly, lurching psychedelia with honeyed singing, quizzical Steve Reich-meets-King Crimson rockers, and sweetly peculiar soft-pop a la Beach Boys and Free Design. This diversity does not denote dilettantism, however; Cheer Accident empowers and devotes itself to whatever style, mode, or genre it absorbs. Even after a few listens, regardless of stylistic diversity displayed during No Ifs, Ands or Dogs is the commitment to primo performance of the album/music/concept as a whole — songs often lead into one another, going from a self-contained song to a introduction (or a coda) depending on where you are or where your focus is in the listening.

After the critical acclaim and expanded audience that greeted Cheer-Accident after the release of Fear Draws Misfortune, the group responded as they always do; by a reinvention of their sound. A wonderful album that is - as usual - also something completely different!

No Ifs, Ands, or Dogs press release

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RUNE 276

For over 20 years, Cheer-Accident have been a creative, interesting force in rock music. They constantly strive to surprise their audience and themselves with constant reinvention. Fear Draws Misfortune is their 16th release and arguably their best release so far, as well as their album which strives the furthest towards a powerful balance between personalized and unique studio techniques and the excitement of a visceral, live, well-honed rock band. Which is saying something.

It is a strongly compelling and high-reaching album that uses a wide variety of ideas, styles and studio techniques, resulting in a cohesive and ambitious album of art-rock. The basic band is a trio who between them perform on vocals, keyboards, trumpets guitars, bass and drums, but they are augmented by 15 additional musicians who, each in their own way, bring their own musical gifts to the album. Fear Draws Misfortune reveals a fortuitous intersection between Cuneiform and Cheer-Accident, both of whom have long admired the other and both of whom finally decided to do something about it! This long overdue marriage, which neatly coincides with a timely (and quite lengthy) cover-feature article in December 2008's Signal To Noise magazine, promises to hurl Cheer-Accident into wider recognition.

"I could easily fill a page talking about any given minute of this album, but suffice it to say that if you’ve ever loved Magma’s apocalypticisms, Neu!’s ghosts in the machine, or Beefheart’s Dada boogie—or at least dreamed of watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir fall down a very long flight of stairs—it might be for you." — Monica Kendrick, Chicago Reader

"...[Cheer-Accident] meld difficult, angular rock with absurdist lunacy in intentionally disturbing ways that are just brilliant." – Alternative Press

"There are few ensembles that can make noise sound both as mysterious and as strangely inviting as Cheer-Accident." – Delusions of Adequacy

Fear Draws Musfortune press release

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For press and media: cover art and high resolution images are available below for download (click thumbnail, right-click image and select "Save As.."). Please credit the photographer (when available) and "Courtesy of Cuneiform Records". For more information, click here.

Putting Off Death
No Ifs, Ands, or Dogs
Fear Draws Misfortune
Scroll for more photos and art from other albums

Vacate press release
Chicago XX press release
Putting Off Death press release
No Ifs, Ands, or Dogs press release
No Ifs, Ands, or Dogs press quotes
Fear Draws Musfortune press release
Fear Draws Musfortune press quotes
Press quotes from previous releases and features

9/20/2013: Cuneiform Bands to Appear at Rock In Opposition Festival September 20-21, 2013 in Carmaux, France
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Cuneiform Records 2014

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