Words by Merc Rowe
Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold is the most recent noisy, overdriven, and relentlessly upbeat offering from Declan Welsh and The Decadent West.
DIY, lo-fi sounding indie rock is arguably one of the most painfully oversaturated genres on the independent scene at the minute. It’s no surprise that overrated and overplayed artists such as The Arctic Monkeys would spawn an army of copycats with their near identical powerchord driven songs about some girl that hurt them in the same humourless, uninterested tone. That being said, while Declan Welsh and The Decadent West are all of those things they are arguably one of the better, more enjoyable, and much more fun artists on that scene.
The opening track, No Fun, is an engineered crowd pleaser. The repetitive hook “you’re no fun at a party” is easy to remember, pretty damn catchy, and ironically would be fun to chant along to at a live show. This is an ideal way to open an album if your intention is to be memorable and accessible. Instrumentally this is also an extremely accessible song - nothing is too weird or experimental which is also a smart way to stand out from the aforementioned competition of other similar sounding artists. The bass, as with most of the songs, is the standout instrument; relatively simple but energetic, punchy, and memorable. This is most notable on How Does Your Love in which the opening is carried entirely by the instrumentation which is good enough to almost distract from the lackluster, generic lyrics - “I’m waiting for you love / I want to satisfy your needs, oh babe”.
Despite the lyricism being sometimes good, usually boring, and occasionally outright bad, the vocal performance is perfect for the genre. Everything from the accent tinged roughness to the pronunciation to the imperfect production style leans into the cohesive aesthetic that the band have woven throughout every aspect of the album. There’s something almost punk about how the frequencies of the instruments clash with the vocals giving it a low budget feel.
One major downside of this cohesive style and aesthetic is how similar every song on the album sounds. When listening to this I found it difficult to marathon more than a couple of songs at a time as I found them all blending into one. However, finding the balance between having your own sound and releasing the same song multiple times is not something that comes easy. Major artists such as Catfish and The Bottlemen have been criticised over and over again for their repetitive sounding releases and instead of changing their sound in response to the critics simply continued to release that exact style. If it works for you and your fans then it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Overall I would say that No Fun is the standout track on the album as the catchy hook is the only aspect of any of the songs that I found myself remembering the day after listening. While this sounds like a bad thing it ultimately is not as this is a solid foundation for a band to build off of. If they can release multiple songs that sound similar to general fan enjoyment then they have the formula down already and while Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold doesn't feel like anything special in a sea of similar artists maybe their next album could be. All the pieces are there already.