This is not a post about The Rutles song “Cheese and Onions,” a satiric take on the Beatles psychedelic period. I like the Rutles project but that track is not one of Neil Innis’s more listenable send-ups IMHO. No, this post has its origins in my accidental discovery of the Danish band Cheese. I love finding out-of-the-way acts, oddities, and overlooked gems. Cheese definitely fits that bill. But I was stumped trying to figure out how to feature them. Then it hit me – what goes with cheese? Onions. And after a little look-see over at Bandcamp, wouldn’t you know it, I found two poppy rock bands named for onions! Do you see the lengths I go to bring quality to this site? Ladies and germs, I present Cheese and Onions (and The Onions).
Cheese actually go way back, to a host of post-high school performances and recordings as another band (The Hue) dating back to the early 1990s. They became Cheese (sometimes The Cheese) in 1996 and proceeded to put out a number of rough recordings over the next two decades. The story of these efforts is recounted on their website, with serious doses of self-deprecation sprinkled throughout. But things change with the three most recent albums released from 2017 on. These sound more tight, more professional. 2017’s Sofa, So Good has an acoustic vibe on a lot of the tunes, sometimes in a White Album vein, sometimes more 1970s FM rock-radio mellow (particularly with their distinctive harmony vocals). “Well Well Well” is the stand out track for me, though “Broken Home” is a pretty good too. 2018’s The Best Irish Band continues with the harmony vocals and acoustic guitars but ups the tempo a bit, even heading in a Moodies 1970s poprock direction with “Day of the War.” “Julian” is a tight McCartney-esque acoustic guitar closer on that album. Then the band decided to be even more Danish for 2019’s Metaforisk Mercedes (translation: Metaphorical Mercedes) by actually singing in Danish. Interestingly, the album is their most polished effort to date and their strongest collection of tunes. Here I really like the soft hooky “Det’ Mit,” though the more acoustic guitar heavy “Godmorgenmanden” comes in a close second.
Boys who come from west Yorkshire to study music in Salford (near Manchester) inevitably form bands, like Onions. Early releases in 2007 and 2008 definitely showed promise but it was with the release of 2012’s Pleasure Blast that things really took off. Songs range from an Everything Everything meets Futureheads vibe on “Or an IE Or AY” and “Belle Vue Fair” to the simple, classic jazzy American songbook demeanor of “Those Wide Eyes.” But the star of this album for me is “Quip of the Tongue.” What a blast! It combines a punky looseness, surfy background vocals, and a relentless hook in the verses, all delivered amid a Sparks/B52s kind of party cacophony. 2015’s Shame of the Nation leans on the early 1960s girl group influences with a Roddy Frame feel to the vocals. Highlights for me include “Here Comes the Rage” and “Boring” but my fave is the bouncy Elephant 6-ish “Deary Me.” Sadly that was the last Onions record as they broke up shortly after its release. Totally different onions band, Columbia, Missouri’s The Onions have got one long-player I can find, 2015’s He Kissed Me and I Knew. The record is a wonderful update on that early to mid 1960s melodic rock-and-roll sound associated with acts ranging from the Everly Brothers to the Bee Gees and the songs are mostly covers from the same era. The band do a nice job of freshening up the sound on Jan and Dean’s “Easy as 1,2,3,” the Bee Gees’ “Kitty Can” and even Roger Miller’s “Swiss Maid.” But check out the energy on their cover of the Magnetic Field’s “Saddest Story Ever Told” – wow. Lovingly rendered, with sparkling guitars and a strong vocal arrangement.
You probably didn’t know there were bands named Cheese or Onions (or The Onions). Now you do.