“Cherrybomb” is a gritty romp of a song

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Dan Auerbach performs live in Tulsa, Okla., 2012. Photo by Steven Anthony, CC 3.0, via Flickr.

“Cherrybomb” is a track from Dan Auerbach’s newest album, “Waiting on a Song.” Auerbach is probably best known for being the vocalist and guitarist for the Black Keys. The Black Keys’ “Howling for You,” with its raw vocals and unpolished-sounding thump, had even non-rock fans singing its chorus of nonsense syllables. That was 2011. Since then, Auerbach has been making a name for himself with his solo work. The blues rock sensibility coupled with a touch of urban sophistication, distinguishes Auerbach from a number of contemporary performers.

Songs called “Cherrybomb”

If you have been paying attention to popular music history, nothing good ever happens in songs called “Cherrybomb.” Relatively speaking. When I had the opportunity to listen to the album and saw the track listing, I immediately thought first of John Mellencamp, and then of The Runaways. In just those two examples, “cherrybomb” represents bittersweet nostalgia and the realization that the good old days are never coming back. The other is a paean to oversexualized teen girl angst.

While rock songs are not necessarily known for being uplifting, except for maybe “Eye of the Tiger,” the track record of this title provided some misgivings, or perhaps a clue about the song’s narrative.

Auerbach’s “Cherrybomb”

The contemporary blues-rock elements are all here. The tribal drums thump in a danceable rhythm, the vocals call to mind Beck, for some reason. The narrator is world-weary and once-bitten, twice shy. Interestingly, the title word gets shortened to a “cherry” that explodes in the narrator’s face. It is the story of love gone wrong, and a hapless guy that gets a bomb of truth dropped on him. Stories in rock songs don’t have to be unique to be successful. This song succeeds because the rock elements are present.

The song with its woodwinds and auxiliary percussion, and a whistle that tweets sporadically, gives this track enough texture to succeed as a follow-up to Auerbach’s “The Prowl” from 2009’s solo album, “Keep It Hid.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcunGT_KsfM

Auerbach’s wordplay is playful and smart, and an integral element to all his songs’ success. This song is no exception. More than one song on this album has a feel from rock-rich decades past. The riffs and rhythms from the 1960s and 1970s make his work respectable and fun at the same time.

The song “Cherrybomb” doesn’t escape the history of its title and that’s okay. It has all the elements necessary to capture audiences’ attention. It is a song whose writer is aware of what it takes to craft a song that is a product of its genre’s past and its future.

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