Preview: The Cheats return for a third blast of punk rock on 'Pussyfootin'


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The Cheats formed in 2001 when Todd Porter's band Silver Tongued Devil took a break following a European tour.

Since then it has burned through band members at a pace rivaling Megadeth.

"There's been like 27 Cheats members. People get bored. We kick people out," the frontman says with a laugh.

He says the current roster -- guitarists Mark Serpico and Eric Wrecker, bassist Tito Fishmocker and drummer Aaron Judgement (good punk rock names) -- which just recorded the third album, "Pussyfootin'," is the tightest yet.

The Cheats

With: Michale Graves, Fist Fight in the Parking Lot.

Where: Altar Bar, Strip.

When: 8 p.m. Friday.

Tickets: $12-$14; 412-263-2877.

"This is the lineup that's been together the longest," he says. "It took us two years to record a record and two years since the other one was out, so that's close to four years with this lineup. [This album] is a little more thought out, a little better musicianship."

Don't fear, punk rockers, The Cheats haven't made a rock opera here. "Pussyfootin' " is a blast of vintage thrashy punk rock that delivers songs about girls, booze, tattoos and, in one case, creepy old punks.

It was cut at Jeree Recording in New Brighton, where Donnie Iris recorded "Ah Leah!" and other big songs.

"We wanted like a live, old-school drum sound," the singer says. "We remembered Jeree had this cool studio, total '70s. The shag carpet hasn't been cleaned in probably 50 years. We recorded the drums to tape. We didn't like that processed drum sound people have now."

The song titles -- "White Knuckle Ride," "Sober Days, Wasted Nights," "I Don't Need You" and "Make You Pay" -- tell you all you need to know about what's going on here.

"We all had a hand in writing it," Mr. Porter says. "Before, everybody had their own songs. I bring this song, he brings this one. This was more everybody being involved in the lyrical part, which is weird for me."

Content-wise, he says, it's "just a lot of personal stuff. We're all middle-aged punk rockers. A couple of us broke long-term relationships."

Mr. Porter, of course, remains a strong focal point through his growling vocals and sheer force of personality. He has a long history here that dates back to the mid-'80s band Eviction.

"When I started with Eviction in '86-'87, it was that crossover, thrash metal stuff, so I got lumped in with the metal dudes," he says. "I'm not really like a metal dude. I was always more into the punk rock."

Guitarist Serpico, formerly of Shiver, joined the band in 2008 after touring with Mr. Porter in the Turbonegro band Trouser Snake. On what it's like working with the singer, he says, "It's always a riot. I wouldn't call it work. If you call drinking working, and hanging out and watching him do crazy [stuff] working, then that's fine."

Along with The Cheats, Mr. Porter fronts Torn Apart Hearts, a band that features members of the Scratch and Sniffs, Automatic Drops and Silver Tongued Devil.

"We're a cover band," he says. "We play punk rock covers that people have never heard of --stuff from the Boys, the Dictators. We're all [big] record collectors. We play out every once in a while."

The Cheats album is coming out on the label Screaming Crow, which is the same name as a tattoo shop in Homestead that Mr. Porter owns with label exec Eric Corbin. The roster also includes Boxcutter, River City Rebels and Michale Graves, the onetime Misfits frontman who will headline The Cheats' release show at Altar Bar and take them on a short tour.

Screaming Crow replaces Mr. Corbin's previous label, Da' Core, which released about a few dozen hardcore/punk albums, including the Steel City Aggression series.

Mr. Corbin says of The Cheats, "They're the only local band I'll ever keep on the label. The energy, the fun-ness of the live shows. ... To me, this record is the best thing they've ever done."

music

Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576.


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