top of page



The Sentimentalist (Cheersquad)


A QUICK DIVERSION before getting teeth into this rather lovely album. Artist-focused labels, usually created/driven by someone who wanted a level of freedom themselves (or a label who would say yes as a first resort, not a last) and then expanded it to fellow travellers, often are assumed to have a limited life. Money runs out or energy runs low, other creative pursuits demand attention or the numbing business side of music (from accounting books to practical disputes) threatens to sap enthusiasm.

But while ones like Spunk, which shut down this year after a quarter of a century, are relatively rare when a decade or so is a good run, that “limited life” offers not just joy to those of us who pay attention to who is putting out what, but a level of certainty. After a while you begin to know who consistently does good packaging, good selections, good records, and you’ll listen to their wares without hesitation. That doesn’t mean you’ll like all they do, just that you know someone who gives more than a cursory care about it reckons it deserves being heard.

Melbourne’s Cheersquad is one of those: proper music fans with an ear for variations of pop-into-rock music who haven’t put out a genuine horror/dud yet in six years. So even if you don’t really know Nick Batterham from back in the day with The Earthmen, more recently in The Bell Streets and as part of Cordrazine, or six previous solo albums up to 2021’s baroque culmination, Lovebirds, you can be assured it’s not going to be shit.

And The Sentimentalist, an unashamedly love-focused album that fits between intimate singer/songwriter settings and chamber pop, is a long way from shit.

Its outstanding moment comes early in A Boy Is A Bee: Batterham’s high vulnerability vocal opening the song accompanied by modest piano and a queen/worker bee metaphor – “You always have control of me/Little by little, I’m dying for my queen” – that tells you enough of the love in pain or the pain in love. At first, the accompaniment, moving to lowkey band and quiet backing vocals, then strings and horns, leans inwards, the sway of the rhythm its most influential feature. But then those elements thicken and look up, peaking at an almost euphoric sadness, that drops away in its final 20 seconds to that first fragility.

The emotional terrain isn’t much sunnier in Just Think It Over – “can this go on much longer?” he repeats midway through with weary resignation – and the tender serenade of the female voices that return to close out the song suggests a farewell would make sense. But spirit isn’t completely without sustenance, even if it is “in the warmth of pretending”: as much is suggested by the slight skip in the drums, the small rise of the horns and the tip of his voice.

Much like Richard Davies and Eric Matthews, individually and as Cardinal, Batterham seemingly works best on the edge of succumbing emotionally, but counters that with a surprising if quiet exuberance, or something that looks enough like exuberance to stiffen resolve. That shows up in Run With The Foxes, where guitars coming down in sheets of rain meet his voice bent on the search for higher ground, in HMS Loneliness (a song so prettily sad it could appear on a Michael Head album), which begins as a gentle acceptance of the inevitable but finds a renewed lease on life in organ and viola, and in Bars+Bedrooms+Bags, which muscles up against pain with guitars and soothes with vocal layers.

Meanwhile, Good Things Come, a kind of Lloyd Cole-goes-country moment, and Rise Above, a kind of Willie Nelson-goes-to-church moment, recklessly throw their lot in with optimism, and the title track and I’ll Be Yours find homes at opposite ends of LA’s canyons somewhere around 1974 (the former offering CS&N; the latter bringing the Y).

The more I think about this album, the more I find myself returning to “I’m willing to make you happy/Maybe a song is all it takes,” as Batterham says in the sweet trot of Lover’s Lullaby, the more it strikes me that being a sentimentalist isn’t the worst thing to be called.




bottom of page