The Checks third album Deadly Summer Sway has the classic rock appeal that The Strokes and The Killers try for, with more artful experimentation, and without the 70’s cocaine-addled affectation and pretentiousness. It’s an album that lives up to its name: Deadly good on lazy summer’s day, as you sway around your flat collecting the bottles from last night’s party.
“Dogs of Perfection” begins the album with the distorted, faraway vocals of Ed Knowles, writhing dreamily beneath dirty, spaced-out guitars, bass, drums, tambourine, and stranger-sounding contraptions such as a Retractable and a Space Echo. Ahh, so that’s what’s causing the “space” sound! The buried vocals and otherworldly instrumentation, reminiscent of a more rocking version of Spiritualized, is a constant on Deadly Summer Sway, but the songs vary thematically and keep the album interesting. “Ready to Die” thrusts forward with a swaggering sexiness that should easily get The Checks into the pants of hipsters everywhere! I mean on the Ipods in their pockets, of course. “Black Frog” is a thrashy, sultry foray into heavy metal digs at the chorus, pulling back into a swooning, lighter-swaying rock anthem. “One Sock” takes a summery, possibly ironic 60’s garage pop turn, followed by a sunny slow dance for black-haired misfits, “Perfect Lover.”
“Winter Sun” would have been played on repeat when I was sixteen and heartbroken, owing to its pretty, shoegaze-lonely atmosphere of slide guitar, 12-string and vibraphone dancing with the usual suspects, and the tone of unrequited longing in Knowles distant voice. Why is he so far away?! He’s the only one who understands!!! “Spiders,” a ballad for doomed romantics, trades out the vibraphone for organ, piano, and an unobtrusive trumpet, while “Candyman Shimmer” and “Jet Plane” shimmer as beautifully creepy, whispery, perfect compositions. The final song, “My Brother,” boasts a moody, pulsing drone of piano, Rhodes, Hammond Organ, crunchy guitar and muddy bass, with a low-hanging storm cloud of layered voices that will keep you curled under the covers—that is until it’s time to restart the album.
Deadly Summer Sway is truly an album you’ll want to play over and over, and The Checks, who've already fronted bands as huge and disparate as R.E.M., Oasis, ACDC, The Hives, Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club, and Florence and the Machine, are a band you should get out and see live as often as you can.