Chew-lip Fever

The Checks played at the King’s Arms on Thursday night to celebrate the launch of their debut album, Hunting Whales.

I’d only seen the Checks play once before, about two and a half years ago, at a Public Address Great Blend. At the time I gushed, “the Checks started to play and my entire life changed.” It’s true. They played some rip-roaring rock ‘n’ roll to a geeky afternoon audience at the Grey Lynn Bowling Club, but delivered it like it was in a dark, smoky club.

So I’d been keeping an eye on these lads from the Shore, as they released singles, toured the UK (playing with the Cribs, which is, like, my cute-boy-indie-band dream double bill), and got better and better.

I bought their album when it came out and put it on high rotate on my iPod. And it’s really good. They sound far more musically accomplished for a bunch of guys in their very early 20s. The songs have excellent arrangements, carefully pacing out the tension. And it’s just one of those records that’s really enjoyable to listen to.

I was in JB Hi-Fi on Queen Street last week and they were playing it as the in-store music. All around me I noticed certain people were subtly grooving to the music as they browsed through the CD and DVD racks.

So I was really excited to see them live. I didn’t see either of the support bands, but I hear they were both good. When the Checks took to the stage, something magical happened, and I’m not sure how to describe it.

See, the five of them ambled up on stage, looking hot, and got into position, strapping on guitars, picking up drumsticks and adjusting microphones, and then they started playing “Take Me There” and suddenly everything was all right. Maybe I could describe it as being like a sonic amphetamine, doing a line of the Checks, making everything light and bright and exciting.

They worked their way through most of the songs on “Hunting Whales”, and surprised and delighted everyone by throwing in a cover of Justin Timberlake’s “LoveStoned”. A lesser band would have done an ironic, cheesy self-conscious cover, but the Checks took it for what it was – a song about sex and drugs – and improved Mr JT’s original with their dirty, bluesy guitar.

(Actually, make me wonder what sort of songs the Checks are going to be writing when they’ve got a bit older and had their hearts broken, broken hearts and just lived life a bit more. I can’t wait to hear the sort of music they’ll be making in 10 years time.)

Other highlights were the audience joining in with the shoutalong chorus of “Tired From Sleeping”, and the sheer joyfulness of “Don’t Wait”. They encored with the “Hunting Whales” title track. I know some people don’t like it, but it’s one of my favourites. It sounds like the sort of song you’d listen to in a bar where you’re drowning your sorrow after someone maybe broke your heart, but you still love them. And it has the line “gimme tulip fever”, which Ed sings like “gimme chew-lip fever”, which sounds like a wholly desirable disease.

It was a good night. It was a really good night. The Checks are off touring Australia now, but they’ll be back in Aotearoa to do some more gigs in early November. They rock.

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